April 10th, 2009
05:09 PM ET
5 years ago

New commencement headache for WH

The commencement season controversies are continuing for the White House.
The commencement season controversies are continuing for the White House.

(CNN) – The commencement season controversies are continuing for the White House with Arizona State University's decision not to award President Obama an honorary degree when he addresses graduates next month.

The university says that the president's achievements have yet to rate the honor, and is directing reporters to use a statement given to the Associated Press. "His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency," Media Relations Director Sharon Keller told the AP Thursday.

The university's guidelines say the degree is merited by "significant contributions to education and society over the course of a person's career," though Sandra Day O'Connor and Barry Goldwater - both Arizonans - received the honor after the latter had served just over one term in the Senate, and the former was roughly three years into her Supreme Court tenure. Also honored: activist Cesar Chavez, legendary Arizona senator and former presidential candidate Mo Udall, and broadcaster Walter Cronkite.

The White House has not commented on ASU's decision.

Last month, the National Right to Life Committee called on the University of Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to President Obama to speak at that school's May commencement, and the bishop for the Ft. Wayne/South Bend diocese said he planned to boycott the university's graduation ceremony. Bishop John D'Arcy said his decision "is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life."

Notre Dame has said it has no plans to rescind the president's invite.

This year, President Obama will also address the graduating class at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (377 Responses)
  1. Greg in Colorado

    To hades with Arizona anyway... this is all political junk.. i bet you they gave it to Bush and look what honor he brought us.?

    April 10, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. LaTreetha E. Sharpley

    I think that President Obama should forgo going to ASU, until they feel he has done enough to receive an honoray degree.

    April 10, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  3. Chi Town

    I don't see any problem here and doubt Obama does either.

    One won't give a degree because it's real early...
    One guy won't show because of personal beliefs...

    What's the problem?

    Mountain out of a mole hill CNN!

    April 10, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. Mississippi Mike

    That's right folks, we elected a president who hasn't done anything noteworthy other than getting elected to the next highest office. Remember when one of his surrogates was asked to name one of his achievements and couldn't come up with anything? I do.

    I guess ASU doesn't have a public speaking or ethnic studies department that can award him with a worthless degree in their pointless specialty areas.

    April 10, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Ross

    Why is this news? ASU's decision is not in anyway directed at Pres. Obama or the quality of work he is doing. They are very clear to point out that it has only to do with the breadth of his body of work, which is small as of yet because he has been in office a short time. Even the supposedly harmful language the article cites says as much.

    April 10, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Sara

    This seems really ridiculous to me on the part of ASU. Why am I not surprised that it comes from the state who voted not to celebrate the national holiday associated with MLK's birthday with the rest of the country. What harm would it do to give him an honorary degree? I am SURE, without a doubt, that they have issued less accomplished people honorary degrees in the past.

    April 10, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  7. Corey

    Looks like someone named John called in a favor.
    Green is not a good color on him.

    April 10, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. Richard L

    President Obama has a law degree graduating magna cum laude from Harvard. He won't miss a degree from Arizona State.

    April 10, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. Mike Dallas

    Wrong CNN, these are not the "headaches" of President Obama but the two instituiions involved.

    Both institutions INVITED the President to speak, he is certainly not forcing anyone to listen to him. Now, vocal supporters of both schools are unhappy with the invite.

    I personally would decline both the Arizona and Notre Dame invitiations and allow other universities the chance to hear President Obama speak on his inspiring story.

    April 10, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. ME

    OKAY....and? Moving on......

    April 10, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Chris

    Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School. Does anyone really think he give a rat's behind about an honorary degree from Arizona Sate University? I'm sure he's in the oval office crying as I type...

    April 10, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. parker

    Where is 'Journalist integrity' in America?

    April 10, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Just Shut Up!

    There is nothing partisan about this. It's just plain common sense and it feels good to hear someone who's not doped up on this guy speak the truth.

    April 10, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. prairieguy

    This is NOT a headache for the White House...it is for ASU as it shows how stupid they are.

    Geee...he is accomplished enough to give the commencement address but not accomplished enough to get an honorary degree.

    Fortunately for ASU Obama has class and despite the snub he will be there and give the address.

    Someday ASU may get some class!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. david

    i applaud the decision not to award an honary degree to this rookie that has done nothing.

    April 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. shucks

    Like this is news coming from McCain's state. I guess the repugs are going to be angry a long, long time, ever since the "maverick" was beaten by an African American. Still smarting are we Arizona?

    April 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. gallon

    CNN, I think you are confused.

    This will become a huge nightmare for ASU, and a huge triumph for
    Obama as the students stand on their seats cheering him.

    Besides, O already has run out of room on his wall, degrees from
    Harvard, photos of him w Queen of England, w president of Russia,
    etc.

    April 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. mike

    Our president is bigger than either school's decision. And I'm sure he'll do a great job regardless of the insults.

    April 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. trish, nc

    It's obviously a snub because he's in the wrong camp. No doubt, the school would have quite ceremoniously bestowed the degree upon the nit-wit Sarah Palin.

    Sheesh. What a bore these Rethuglicans continue to be.

    April 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. E. Asaa

    The President could care less who gives him a free deree or not. He already got better degrees from better schools.

    April 10, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. Carl

    How racist of ASU!

    April 10, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Mack

    If Arizona State Univ will not award President Obama an honorary degree, why invite him to give the commencement address "if his body of work has yet to come"? Looks like racism to me. Wasn't Arizona the last state to approve Dr. Martin Luther King's holiday?

    April 10, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. EMC-NY

    I guess Obama should have Geitner [sp?] going in and fire the president of the college for not giving Obama what he wants. Heck... they're doing it with the CEO's, why not college presidents next?

    April 10, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  24. WhoCares?

    Liberal Schools please take note for future reference.

    April 10, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. Dave

    This is news? A controversy? One created by the press perhaps.

    April 10, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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