By Christopher Swann and Rob Cox
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde wimped out of speaking at Smith College’s commencement after a student petition accused the fund of supporting “patriarchal systems.” The fund has made many mistakes over the years. But that critique is mostly old hat. The IMF, particularly under Lagarde, has fostered social spending and championed female rights. Here’s what she ought to have told the 672 women graduating from the university in Northampton, Massachusetts on May 18.

Women of Smith

Congratulations on graduating from one of the world’s greatest women’s colleges. I understand that many of you had reservations about having me as your speaker. Student opposition also recently caused former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a similar address to the students at Rutgers.

But throughout my career, whether as an international lawyer or a French politician, I have always believed in engaging people with whom I most disagree. I am sure this is precisely the sort of approach the extraordinary faculty here at Smith has fostered in all of you, too.

The institution I lead, not unlike this amazing university founded by the brave and fiercely independent Sophia Smith 143 years ago, can rightly claim a proud record of promoting the economic well-being and careers of women.