Comedian Bill Maher delivered his long-anticipated and controversial speech at the University of California Berkeley winter commencement on Saturday–and it turned out to be a rather conventional liberal address. Though much debate surrounded Maher’s views on Islam, he largely avoided the subject, instead telling students to make climate change their generation’s priority. “I hope all of you here today consider the environment to be paramount among the many challenges we face.”
Ironically, Maher would later tell students to think for themselves. “Be a free thinker. One reason our politics is so screwed up is that everyone has become so tribal. As you go down the path of life, ask what’s true, not who believes it. Be unique. Stay vigilant for busting yourself for falling into groupthink,” he cautioned. He also referred to “victims of police brutality,” drawing applause from students on a campus where protests against police have dominated public life in recent weeks.
Maher’s speech was self-consciously liberal, taking the occasional jab at Republicans and describing his own upbringing in a liberal home during the 1960s. “In my house, the only thing we did not have tolerance for was intolerance. You don’t have to be a liberal, but if you call yourself a liberal, you have to fight oppression, from wherever oppression comes from, especially of women, gays, minorities and free thinkers,” Maher said, interrupted by applause. “That’s what makes you a liberal.”
However, Maher did acknowledge that liberals had become less liberal than they perhaps once had been. He referred to his own reputation as an iconoclast, and thanked the university for inviting him to address the commencement on the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s iconic Free Speech Movement.
“Never forget that we are lucky to live in a country that has a First Amendment, and liberals should want to own it the way conservatives own the Second,” he concluded, to loud applause.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak