Like DiCaprios fated visit, Jesse Venturas April 4 appearance in Boe Chapel had many a celebrity string attached to it. While his Minnesotan roots and eccentric personality surely generated much of his on-campus acclaim, Venturas WWE and B-movie renown undoubtedly boosted his audience attendance. Case in point: does anyone even remember Green Party candidate Ralph Naders Oct. 26 appearance in Boe?
It seems that St. Olafs recent trend toward big name speakers has done little to bridge the liberal-conservative gap on campus; rather, these famous speakers have generated talk about what else? their own celebrity. Discussion surrounding DiCaprio and Venturas lectures related more to the self-images the two actors projected (who could resist a jab at Venturas Pirates of the Caribbean beard?) than to the politics the pair were pushing.
In the wake of Dicaprios and Venturas more openly liberal on-campus appearances, right-wing author and columnist Ann Coulter will speak Sunday in a lecture comparing liberalism to terrorism. Coulter will undoubtedly drive a hard wedge between the Democratic and Republican factions on campus.
So, how have the recent celebrity politicians at St. Olaf affected on-campus politics? Sadly, very little except to cause further discourse among the left- and right-leaning factions of the student body. Most of St. Olafs politically active students have already pledged their allegiance to whatever political party they most admire. No speaker celebrity or otherwise is likely to change this fact.
This isnt to say that political change on the St. Olaf campus is totally unobtainable. Rather than devoting our student organizations budgets to celebrity speakers, St. Olaf should strive to promote more speakers such as those who lectured April 5 on Women and Jerusalem or those who spoke Tuesday about the Abu Gharib atrocities. Professors like Mark Allister, James Farrell and Jim Heynen, whose Sept. 29 lecture on environmentalism in literature was blatantly overshadowed by DiCaprios speech, deserve our attention, too.
These understated, non-celebrity speakers tried to shed light on issues affecting all humanity not just the right- or left-leaning factions of it. And the improvement of humanity rather than the awe-inducing nature of celebrity should be the goal of our on-campus discussion.