Guest speaker candidates come from a wide variety of fields

The list of possible guest speakers to come to Stony Brook University is out and the names are, to say the least, quite impressive. Among them are Dennis Rodman, NBA legend and “Diplomat to North Korea”; Michio Kaku, world-renowned theoretical physicist; Lil B, famous rapper; and Spike Lee, film director and producer. Each of these men will undoubtedly will share indispensable insight on topics ranging from politics to music to science, but nonetheless, to me, there are two that stand out for distinct reasons.

We can start with the obvious choice: Michio Kaku. Let’s face it, this is the choice people expect us to make here at Stony Brook: an expert physicist coming to one of the country’s leading science universities to talk about, well, physics. I have listened to and watched Michio Kaku; he is one of the most interesting and intelligent people on this planet and a modern day Einstein. He delivers his lectures with such fluidity and devotion that it is easy to forget that what he is talking about is beyond your scope of intelligence and, in fact, also beyond that of most of the scientific world.

Besides his unmatched intellect and affability, Kaku is the embodiment of the American dream. His parents were among the first Japanese to immigrate to the United States and he thrived in an era in which immigrants in general were not particularly welcomed by the majority of Americans. Kaku has done it all; he built a particle accelerator as a child and enlisted in the army as an adult. This man is truly an inspiration and we would all be greatly honored to have him speak at Stony Brook University.

This brings me to the other most notable man on the list: Dennis Rodman. Yes, I mean Dennis Rodman. The freakishly tall, historically hot-tempered, tattoo-covered, piercing-littered, hair-dying retired NBA All-Star, champion, Defensive Player of the Year and Hall of Famer. If you know anything about the NBA, you know Dennis Rodman. His fierce, unrelenting, competitive nature made him every opponent’s nightmare and every coach’s dream. He was a defensive juggernaut and a rebounding machine; he made a man out himself through sheer determination and effort.

Despite his remarkable achievements on the court, it is what Rodman has been able to do off the court which makes his appearance at Stony Brook so enticing. He is one of the few men in this country, let alone in the world, who can say that he has spent time in the world’s most mysterious nation with the world’s most mysterious man. Granted, he is not allowed to speak much of his experiences in North Korea with Kim Jong Un, but he is still allowed to share some of what he took from it. Rodman has gone on record to say that Jong Un is a basketball fan and from that common ground, the two established at least the beginnings of friendship. Rodman’s journey is one of global implications; it shows us that as humans, we are much more similar than we think. However far-reaching and idealistic as it may sound, we need to use our similarities to get past our differences and put a permanent end to all the disunity in the world because there might come a day that the division comes back to bite us in the backside. Rodman’s voyage might as very well be the first step toward this unity.

So who do we choose? The obvious yet unforgettable choice, Michio Kaku, or the wildcard Dennis Rodman? It’s our choice, Stony Brook.

Former NBA Dennis Rodman makes a fool of himself in North Korea

Dennis Rodman (C) tries to keep the ball away from Indiana Pacers Antonio Davis (L) during 2nd quarter play in Chicago, IL., Sunday.  Chicago won game 1 of the Eastern Conference final 85-79.

Dennis Rodman (C) tries to keep the ball away from Indiana Pacers Antonio Davis (L) during 2nd quarter play in Chicago, IL., Sunday. Chicago won game 1 of the Eastern Conference final 85-79.

In today’s world, whenever North Korea is mentioned, the word nuclear is always nearby. It’s also noted that the tiny nation is governed by the Kim dynasty who rule the country with an iron fist. But no one talked about Kim Jong-un’s love of basketball until former NBA player Dennis Rodman was photographed watching a game of basketball with the infamous leader in Pyongyang on Feb. 28. Rodman traveled to North Korea with a group which included three members of the Harlem Globetrotters, in order to film for the HBO series “Vice.” However, instead of discussing the positive impacts that can result from this type of interaction, the public instead focused on how it was a disgrace for Rodman to meet with such an “evil” dictator; not to say that Kim Jong-un hasn’t presided over the state which seems like it got some of its methods from Orwell’s 1984. Rodman spent most of the day with the dictator, and even went as far as to tell him “you have a friend for life.” This is an interesting and rare opportunity for the two nations to open more dialogue, and hopefully pursue peaceful ends.

At least, this is what I had thought before it became clear that Dennis Rodman has no idea what he’s doing, and is probably worsening the situation. There was a photo taken of Rodman and Kim Jong-un watching the game together and laughing, which gives the North Koreans prime propaganda material. That’s not entirely Rodman’s fault; propaganda will be made whenever anyone of importance visits the secluded nation. However, I don’t understand how Rodman could possibly claim the dictator as a friend after knowing about all of his crimes against humanity. In fact, Rodman praised Kim Jong-un by stating that he, alongside his father and grandfather, are all great leaders. Apparently Rodman was amazed by the level of respect that Kim Jong-un was given; not really surprising considering anyone who doesn’t give him respect will end up in a work camp. Rodman went as far as to say that there are definitely additional trips to North Korea in his future.

This is not the first gaffe in American history and it will not be the last. However, this series of events reflects a level of either stupidity, naivety, or facetiousness that has rarely been seen before in modern history. It is forgivable to underestimate the atrocities committed by certain individuals when their misdeeds are covered over or not covered at all by the mainstream media. There are a number of countries where unspeakable acts of cruelty occur on a daily basis yet do not get coverage.

But there is no such excuse with North Korea. The miserable quality of life and deplorable political rights within this isolated nation are made clear on an almost weekly basis. One would have had to live under a rock to have not heard of this. Such a lifestyle would also be required for one to believe that playing basketball would give cause to the Kim family to enter the modern world and embrace friendship with developed nations. It is an idea that a writer of a child’s fictional novel would consider too fantastical.

In the end, this will not be an important event for any reason. This will not change the policies of any nation, least of all North Korea. The only reason that this is receiving any attention in the first place is that it is Dennis Rodman going to North Korea and not just another government official. If there is anything truly newsworthy about this event, it is that there is at least one American who has absolutely no idea how horrible life is in North Korea to such a degree that he would want to visit the nation multiple times and consider its strongman dictator, one of the most vilified men in the world, a dear friend.