We are two Yale seniors against the war. We will graduate in the year 2008, the fifth year of the conflict in Iraq. Like many of our fellow Yalies, we ended our high school years with an energy and determination to speak out against a war that we considered unjust. We both went to marches, we both wrote to our legislators, and we each organized walkouts at our respective high schools. One of us gave a speech at her high school graduation against the war. At that time, our outrage was not rare and our actions were not taken alone.
This weekend we graduate again, and yet no realistic end to the Iraq War is in sight. In the intervening years we, as well as other members of our generation, have lost much of our zeal and our impulse to speak out. Nonetheless, under the supervision of our government and that of the United Kingdom, led by Tony Blair, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, the vast majority of them noncombatants. The initial justification for the war has been proven fabricated. Five years later, we stand by our initial opposition.
We are protesting one of the primary instigators of the Iraq War. Class Day for us, like for everyone, is important. Our intention is not to disrupt. Rather, we hope to remind both our speaker and our classmates that this war continues. While Mr. Blair is no longer Prime Minister, he remains an influential figure in international politics. His speech will likely not address the Iraq War, but as students, it is our chance to directly voice our disapproval of his involvement in the war and to hold him accountable for his actions. This is an act of witness. As American citizens, and members of the global community, we are not innocent bystanders. Our leaders, using our tax dollars, directed this war. We are complicit and therefore we must stand up against the actions of failed, dangerous leadership.
We understand that graduation is important to students and to their families, and we deeply respect the work that has gone into our collective achievements. We recognize that we would not be here if it were not for many other people along the way, from parents to mentors, from teachers to friends. In planning our opposition, we deliberately chose actions that will not interrupt the speaker, and actions that will not block the views of our families and loved ones. We made these choices because we hope that we will not detract, but rather that we will add to the experience of our fellow graduates and guests.
It is true that our decision to conduct a protest during Class Day is a political one, but to not protest would also be political. The choice of Mr. Blair as speaker was that which originally politicized the event. It would be inexcusable for us to listen without demonstrating our sincere disagreement with his failed policies in regards to the Iraq War.
In fact, it is perhaps appropriate that Mr. Blair has been chosen to speak, as our generation has come of age in a time of war. Both of us can remember exactly where we were when our country began its invasion — it is a memory we will never forget, and it is not one we ever wish to repeat. Our Commencement marks our entrance into the world as we choose to define it — not through war, but through peace.
Yonah Freemark is a senior in Saybrook College. Lea Krivchenia is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.