Sen. Rob Portman speaks before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 8. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

I have heard a lot recently about disappointment with having Sen. Rob Portman as the Autumn Commencement speaker on Sunday. It’s fine to be disappointed that he’s the keynote speaker, but I have also seen people discuss protesting his speech at commencement. This, in my opinion, is not OK. Protest is a sacred right guaranteed by the Constitution, but just because you are allowed to do something does not mean you should do something.

Thousands of students have spent years (and tens of thousands of dollars) working toward this day and it is finally here. They do not deserve to have it disrupted due to a handful of students being unable to sit and listen for less than an hour to someone they disagree with giving a speech that is not even political.

Since 2013, Ohio State has had then-President Barack Obama, MSNBC political commentator Chris Matthews, and congresswoman Joyce Beatty speak at commencement. All three of these speakers are Democrats and all three are considered to be quite far to the left on the political spectrum. There were no organized student protests by the conservative students on campus. Instead, they just sat there and listened to people they disagree with. Had Ohio State gone in the opposite direction and invited Senator Sherrod Brown to speak, College Republicans and other conservative groups still would not have protested.

I understand what it’s like to listen to people you disagree with. I understand it challenges your beliefs and you might not like it. I respect the right to protest. Protest before, protest after, protest at his office, protest at any other speech he gives. But do not disrespect your fellow graduates and their families by protesting during the final thing we’ll ever experience as students at this great university.

If you protest Portman at commencement, you’re not going to change his mind and you’re not going to change his vote. All you are going to do is anger your fellow graduates and embarrass yourselves, your families and Ohio State. Let’s go out the right way, united as one Buckeye family.

Devin Bilski

Fifth-year in Marketing and Political Science

Bilski.6@osu.edu