Friday, May 28, 2010
That’s the Way to Handle a Heckler
Kudos to Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, for his handling of a surprising heckler during his remarks at an Africa Day celebration. The surprising source? The Zimbabwean ambassador, Machivenyika Mapuranga. What could have been embarrassing, though, wasn’t quite a “tear down this wall” moment, but it is admirably frank and utterly right.
Carson silenced both the ambassador and the crowd when he started speaking again. Changing his tone, he scolded Zimbabwe by pointing out that such outbursts would have evoked vicious punishment in the southern African country, which has been ruled by revolutionary leader Robert Mugabe with an iron fist since the 1980s.
“You can sit in the audience in darkness, but the light will find you and the truth will find you,” Carson told Mapuranga, as event staff quietly tried to encourage the ambassador to leave.
Turning to the crowd, Carson said: “It seems that Robert Mugabe has some friends in the room tonight. Unlike in Zimbabwe, they are allowed to speak without oppression, because this is a democracy.”