Monica Lewinsky Coming to SLU: Cancelling ‘Cancel Culture’


Photo by the Greater Issues Committee

On Monday, Nov. 11, the Greater Issues Committee announced that Monica Lewinsky will be speaking at SLU in early December. The GIC came to this decision based on Lewinsky’s content, which will cover topics like the price of shame and her life in the public eye. 


Lewinsky, an activist, TV personality and fashion designer was made famous through a sex scandal with President Clinton in 1995 when she was an intern at the White House. After the scandal, 22-year-old Lewinsky became a figure of popular culture, her name constantly dragged through the mud by news outlets. Now, she tours college campuses across the country speaking on bullying and the dangers of “cancel culture.” 


Cancel culture is a recent phenomenon that takes place on social media platforms, a typical offender being Twitter. Users boycott a celebrity after learning about a problematic action in their past, usually involving xenophobic behavior. While bigotry is not an acceptable reaction in any context, many people, including Lewinsky, believe that cancel culture is also harmful in its own way. 


Chair of GIC and SLU junior, Beatrice Beirne, says that Lewinsky has always been on a short list of interesting speakers to bring to SLU. The decision was finalized the first few weeks of the semester—since then, Beirne’s excitement has only grown. She believes that the subject matter is very relevant to SLU’s campus culture today. 


“Being college students, we can all kind of relate to [cancel culture],” she says. “There’s been a situation for all of us where we’ve cancelled someone without knowing the full story, or we’ve been cancelled without someone knowing the full story.” Either way, Beirne states, “we’re all participating in it.”


As there is a chance for her to interview Lewinsky at the event, Beirne states that it would be daunting to interview someone that’s been interviewed by some of the greats, like Jake Tapper and Katie Couric. At the same time, Beirne says, “it will be cool to be in that proximity and to see this person that is in rap songs, for who she really is,” she said. 


Beirne also believes that SLU students will have an interesting perspective of Lewinsky, as the 1995 scandal happened before most of the current students were even born. “We got to see the second wind of her career,” she said. 


The GIC chair thinks that it is unfair to hold Lewinsky to the same standard she was held to in her twenties—she hopes that the audience shares this outlook at the upcoming event. “We might have the opportunity, because of the generation we’re a part of, to see her as who she is, and not just her sex scandal,” to which Beirne describes her real personality as “overcoming” and “resilient.” 


Lewinsky will speak to the SLU community in the Wool Ballroom on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. with free entry provided to students with a SLU ID. The audience will be given a chance to ask questions after the interview.


Ultimately, Beirne hopes that the audience will learn “the effect of their actions” from Lewinsky’s speech. “I hope that they come away with being more intentional with preventing themselves from participating in cancel culture, public shaming and hurting people who are celebrities—but also people they go to school with,” she said.