Montana high school principal says Jerry Molen is too “conservative” to talk to “his” students

by Gerald R. Molen, Producer: Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Rain Man, 2016

JerryMolenIf someone had told me that a school in Montana would bar an invited speaker from presenting his or her speech before a high school senior class, I would have said, “no way, not here, not now, not ever.” But then I would have been wrong.

Obviously the Ronan school district didn’t get the word that in America, especially in Montana, people — that reads all people — have a right to free expression and freedom of speech and to listen to varying points of view. I mistakenly thought that was part of an education. Evidently not in certain jurisdictions.

Recently I was invited to speak to the Ronan High School seniors. After three weeks of preparation, research and rewrite after rewrite, I arrived at the appointed hour only to be told my talk had been canceled.

The reason: “some” callers had informed the principal that they were concerned about the scheduled speaker being too right-wing or having an opinion that might be counter to theirs or some other lame excuse.

When I was informed of the decision, I asked to speak to the principal and he agreed to meet with me. He apologized for the inconvenience of being canceled and said the decision to cancel was his alone. He was concerned about my presentation. No, he didn’t ask me of the content. No, he didn’t ask to read the speech for any clarification as to content. No, he would not tell me who the complaining party or parties were, nor would he give me any further explanation. Just that there would be no presentation by me that day.

I served three years in the Marine Corps so that others might stand before their peers or even a group of students, but never did I think my voice would be stilled by some mysterious caller(s) on the notion that I might say something they “thought” would not be in the students’ best interests. Reminds me of another time in history when voices were silenced by the mere suggestion they might be different or have a point of view. I never dreamed it might happen in Montana.

I feel the students missed out that day. I feel they were robbed of an opportunity to hear from someone who actually experienced the true facets of the American dream. But a high school principal failed the very students assigned to his leadership because he feared some unknown person or persons or some other factor not divulged.

For the record, my presentation that day had nothing political or capricious that would be harmful to a senior high school student (or even a grammar school student) or a teacher. It dealt with my hopes for their futures. It was a cheer leading presentation that allowed me to remind them of their individual greatness and opportunities for the future.

My intent was to inspire and motivate those looking for an encouraging word and message of hope beyond the walls of the institution they were leaving to the next chapter in their young lives. It spoke to the contributions and greatness of their teachers, administrators, parents and peers but with an emphasis on their ability to conceive, to believe and to achieve. But I guess I was wrong about teachers and/or school administrators.

Since my career had centered around the motion picture industry, I had set out to challenge them with the thought that they might each write their own movie script. A script that would have them as the writer, director, producer and star. A script filled with step-by-step goals of proper preparation and scenes depicting them as lawyers, doctors, captains of industry and/or having careers as they saw themselves in 20 or 30 or 40 years in the future.

Silly idea? Maybe. But of course we’ll never know. Instead they were indoctrinated with a sense of fear and mistrust that a fellow Montanan just might stand before them and say something some official school administrator deemed “possibly harmful.

”In America today, are our children taught or indoctrinated? Is there censorship? I’ll let the reader decide.

Me? I now have the answer.

3 thoughts on “Montana high school principal says Jerry Molen is too “conservative” to talk to “his” students”

  1. Everyone needs to heed those words. Teachers and administrators have been lulled into thinking that they must have the last word in what the students hear. I recall my own experience in high school, when a teacher was fired for teaching communism. Mrs Panzer taught the evils of communism in comparison to our own system of government, but she used the dreaded "C" word, so off with her head! Parents, unable to think beyond their own personal experience, can often inhibit the learning experience of their own children.

  2. John Merlette

    I am appalled that, here in western Montana, where our freedoms are as tenaciously embraced as anywhere in the world, some close-minded academic administer in Ronan chose to deny his students (who depend of this principal for guidance) to experience the wisdom of a celebrated man willing to share his story of rising from nothing to international fame through old-fashioned hard work and determination. How ironic that Mr. Molen, the Oscar-winning producer of Schindler's List, would experience the same discrimination and political judgment that caused so much angst to be experienced by so many as told in this remarkable movie.

    I recall, when living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an interview done with a river guide who had just spent a day, one-on-one, with then Vice President Dick Cheney. When asked what the two talked about while fishing, the dolt said, "We discussed nothing because I disagree with Cheney's conservative opinions". I embrace conservative views myself and yet I wouldn't hesitate to spend a day one-on-one with Hillary Clinton or even, (deep breath here), President Obama. I know Mr. Molen and know that his talk was not about pushing any political agenda on his audience, but was to be the sharing of his personal success story with the hope of instilling in the young people the motivation and desire to achieve all they are capable of and becoming respected contributors to their community and country.

    I understand that the principal of Ronan didn't even show the courtesy to read Mr. Molen's speech before denying him his 1st Amendment rights. Would this coward have been so eager to wait for Sean Penn, George Cloony or Rosie O'Donell to show up at the high school before telling them to take a hike? America's freedoms are not to be abused by anyone. This is a very serious matter because one minor slip now will surely lead to much greater prejudice and injustice later. I call on the community to be adamant that this unqualified administrator be immediately fired from his leadership role and replaced with someone who read and understands the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights and has the personal fortitude to defend them.

  3. I registered solely for the purpose of commenting on this post.

    I did not read Mr Molen's speech, but I would bet that it had NO reference to anything remotely political. That idiots (like the 'administrator') exist in Montana should come as no surprise. They exist everywhere in the world. That he would cancel a scheduled speaker — and in the way he did it with no notification — over some purported Joe McCarthy-type comment is inexcusable. If I were his supervisor, I would wish him good luck as he applies for his next job.

    But what really rankled me were comments like "before denying him his 1st Amendment rights…." and "be immediately fired from his leadership role and replaced with someone who read and understands the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights"

    This is NOT a First Amendment issue! That is precisely the type of response that has alienated me from the Republican party. Too many wingnuts… eager to declare that 'the Bill of Rights' is being abused and that this country is headed to Hell because of moderate views.

    As a registered Republican for 45 years, I am saddened by the extreme views and unwillingness to find common ground (with more moderate positions) displayed by many Republicans. As a disabled Vietnam veteran, I look around me a ask myself "Is this what I fought for?".

    So please… keep you 'Rise up and save the nation!' rant to yourself. This was simply a classless individual with no common sense. Treat it that way.

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