President George H.W. Bush criticized the notion of “political correctness” on college campuses when he spoke before thousands at Michigan Stadium.
Bush was the third sitting American president to visit the University, and the second to speak at the stadium. He spoke at May 5, 1991, commencement ceremonies and used the occasion to attack what he called increased censorship and “bullying” at America’s universities.
“The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudices with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits.
“What began as a crusade for civility has soured into a cause of conflict and even censorship,” he told graduates and a platform party that included Michigan Gov. John Engler and U-M President James J. Duderstadt. More than 78,000 people filled Michigan Stadium.
Bush’s remarks at U-M were overshadowed by news that he was rushed to the hospital hours after his Ann Arbor appearance. Bush experienced shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat while jogging at Camp David. The president spent the night in the hospital and later was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder.
A Republican, Bush made at least two previous stops at the University, including an Oct. 19, 1988, visit to the UM-Dearborn campus. As vice president, Bush was campaigning for the Oval Office; three weeks later he defeated Michael Dukakis to become the 41st president. Bush also campaigned at the Dearborn campus in May 1980 in an unsuccessful bid to win the Republican presidential nomination that summer.
Sources: The New York Times; The Washington Post; Public Papers of the Presidents, Office of the Federal Register
Photo: U-M News and Information Services records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan