This week, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., announced that its commencement address would be delivered by Mumia Abu-Jamal, an unrepentant cop killer serving a life sentence for murdering 25-year-old Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner.
I cannot fathom how anyone could think it appropriate to honor a cold-blooded murderer—one who ambushed a police officer, shot that officer in the back, and while that officer lay wounded and defenseless on the ground, lowered a gun to the officer’s face and took his life.
Inviting a cop killer is a question of judgment and a college’s basic sense of right and wrong.
Abu-Jamal has never apologized or expressed any regret for his heinous crime. To the contrary, after the murder, Abu-Jamal boasted, “I killed the [police officer], and I hope the [police officer] dies.”
What possible enlightenment can Goddard College students obtain from this man?
The college’s associate director of advancement and alumni affairs argues that Abu-Jamal will spark a “complicated dialogue” on “imprisonment.” This begs the question: Is there any crime so heinous that Goddard would not reward the perpetrator with a spot as commencement speaker?
This is not a question of free speech. It is a question of judgment and the college’s basic sense of right and wrong.
Nor can the college fall back on the claim—raised by a Goddard spokesperson—that Abu-Jamal may not be guilty.
Four eyewitnesses saw Abu-Jamal ambush Danny Faulkner and shoot multiple bullets into his back, chest, and face. Three other eyewitnesses heard Abu-Jamal brag that he had shot Faulkner and hoped that he died. And during the trial, when Faulkner’s blood-stained shirt was displayed, the jury saw Abu-Jamal turn in his chair and smirk at Faulkner’s young widow, Maureen.
Abu-Jamal’s sole claim—that he was the victim of a racist jury—has been rejected by multiple state and federal courts and is belied by the facts.
The jury that convicted and sentenced Abu-Jamal to death included two African Americans and would have included one more except that Abu-Jamal ordered his lawyer not to seat the juror.
Finally, what lesson is Goddard teaching its students about their moral responsibilities, as members of a civil society, to their fellow citizens?
Danny Faulkner’s family has been subjected to three decades of untold pain.
What possible enlightenment can college students obtain from a cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal?
They have been forced to sit by and watch as political opportunists exploited his death to further their own agendas—spreading lies about the trial and the evidence and organizing rallies that, amazingly, portrayed Mumia Abu-Jamal as the victim. They have watched Abu-Jamal be made a cause célèbre, complete with adoration from Hollywood celebrities, “Free Mumia” T-shirts and posters, his own HBO special, and a street named after him in France.
And while Faulkner’s widow Maureen has only memories of her husband and can only dream of the children and grandchildren she and Danny should have had, Abu-Jamal gets to hug his wife, talk to his children, and play with his grandchildren every time they visit him.
Did anyone bother to raise the question of how celebrating this unrepentant murderer might affect the victim’s family?
That’s why I am deeply troubled by Goddard College’s decision to invite Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak at the commencement this weekend. It is a slap in the face to Danny Faulkner’s family, and to all of the law enforcement officers who risk their lives for us every day.
I hope the college will revoke its invitation to Mumia Abu-Jamal.