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. David

    Did they Give the last Bush one? If so, they must of raised the bar for his failures as President. Very amazing if they id give him one for all the progress and death he commanded.

    April 10, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Erich Lichtblau

    Could the real reason be that, unlike O'Connor, Goldwater, et al, Obama is black?

    April 10, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. RRR

    Hmmm.........Arizona.....McCain's home state.....that explains THAT.
    Indiana.....well it's Notre Dame so THAT explains that!

    Bottom line.....if you want him invite him to speak....if you embarass him, or any public official.....don't expect any of them ever to speak there in the future! I would feel this way.....and I certainly understand if Obama felt this way.

    April 10, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Li

    Do I have to ask what culture makes up the majority of this school. This is no big surprise given that fact and the fact that it is John McCain's home state. I'm sure he will get more prestigious honors during his career. They're right about one thing his accomplishments are just being.

    Can anyone say disgruntaled.

    April 10, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. djl

    Frankly, Mr. Obama already has a law degree from Harvard. Will anyone ever ask if he has a degree from Arizona State?

    April 10, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. gh

    I am certain the president has far more important things to mull over than the commencement controversy. There must be mostly Republicans on the awards committee.

    April 10, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. charlie in maine

    Where to begin? Well first of all it is an honorary degree so if they won't honor the best president to come along in my life time..... fine. Come up to Maine sir and we will honor you. Arizona is obviously sore that the capable but out-of-touch native son John McCain let the right wing of the party hijack the message and lost th election. Get over it ASU. Don't recind the degree though just don't offer it in the first place.
    Just the right wingnuts looking for a chance to embarass the Prez. Got news for ya. This guy does not rattle easily.

    April 10, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. J T

    Oh really! Why would President Obama be upset about not receiving an honorary Degree from Arizona State University. He President of the United States. If anyone is benefiting from this deal I would say it's the University. Harvard Arizona on a scale from one to ten which one is at the top. When he leaves office and building his library I don't think not having anything from Arizona University is really going to matter. Sometime we think more of ourselves than what we ought too.

    April 10, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. Bobby

    ASU really knows how to hit him where it hurts: his educational shortcomings. I'm sure he'll cry all over his Harvard Law degree.

    April 10, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. Steve (the real one)

    I understand this is the school's choice but if they were not going to give him the honorary degree, why then even invite him. I don't agree with his policies but as president, don't embarrass him! After "THE BOW" and his Blame America tour across Eurpore he does not need help in that department!

    April 10, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. Steve - in Chicago

    Wonderful!

    For once an establishment stands up for their foundation beliefs & refuses to cave in to the hysteria / messiah tsunami.

    Now if we can get Congress to WAKE UP & follow suit this grand REPUBLIC of ours may have a chance of surviving until the elections of 2010.

    April 10, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. Joe in Austin

    Rudeness never has good reason, but always finds justification.

    April 10, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. Rachelraye49 - MD

    It's okay he can address South Carolina State University and he'll be honored with or without proving himself. After all he still will be the President of the United States.

    April 10, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. Steve (the real one)

    I understand this is the school's choice but if they were not going to give him the honorary degree, why then even invite him. I don't agree with his policies but as president, don't embarrass him! After "THE BOW" and his Blame America tour across EUROPE, he does not need help in that department!

    April 10, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. Capt Justice

    HA HA Obama the hangover is wearing off and people are finally realizing that you are a failure and do not want their name attached to you destroying this country.

    April 10, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. Matt

    Hey Barack are you dumb or what? An American serviceman is being held hostage and all we get from you is silence. Do you not know what the Marines are for? I consider your inaction treasonous.

    April 10, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Sammy

    This is silly snub by the university, but this shouldn't affect his decision to speak at the ceremony - he's a bigger man than that. Besides, the President has earned degrees from Columbia and Harvard.

    April 10, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Jo

    What do expect from Arizona where McCain is the kingpin. I am sure he had something to say about this. Wonder if they will give it him instead?

    April 10, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. Greg

    Why am I not suprised? Arizona being the home of ever-bitter John McCain... which now we've learned apparently, the whole state is, too. Also, the line about "significant contributions to education", if they knew anything about Obama, is just that- before he got into politics, HIS WHOLE LIFE was dedicated to education.

    April 10, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. Shannon McGarry

    ASU refusing to bestow an honorary degree to President Obama after his commencement address is a failure to recognize a man that made his way from a single parented home to the home in which he lives in today, The White House. That alone is an accomplishment in itself and not to mention the fact that he is the first African- American to reach the most powerful office in the world. He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and also a former United States Senator. Yet, to say the least, his years of service to the people of Chicago accounts for something, don’t you think. Although he doesn’t need an honorary degree, it should be your honor, ASU, to have President Obama address the graduating students of your university. He definitely has worked for it……whether you think so or not.

    April 10, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. NYC REPUB

    President Obama.....continue to do the right thing...Go to this commencement, speak to the kids......this country is going crazy.....but the contraversies will continue as you continue to do what's right!! So many Presidents have secretly passed the buck along on so many issues......I respect and admire that you have the gumption, the smarts, and the audacity of hope to march onward for a better America......God be w/ you and your family.....A majority of the American people are still w/ you.......What a long four months it's been so far........

    April 10, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  22. david

    Morris Udall (D-Arizona) was a U.S. representative, not a U.S. senator. However, his son Mark Udall (D-Colorado) is a U.S. senator, and so is his nephew Tom Udall (D-New Mexico).

    The far-right tantrum about Obama speaking at Notre Dame is dishonest - many pro-death penalty and pro-Iraq War politicians have spoken at Notre Dame, without objections from the far right, even though the death penalty and the Iraq war are just as inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching as Obama's belief that abortion should be legal.

    The Catholic Church isn't, and shouldn't be, a branch of either political party.

    April 10, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Bethie in Texas

    Is awarding an honorary degree an automatic thing? I wouldn't think it's required at every university that the President speaks to. I believe, however, that ASU will come to regrets its short-sighted decision. Anyway, they sound kind of silly–well, he's good enough to be our speaker but not accomplished enough to award an honorary degree to. Obama will handle the situation with grace and aplomb, just as he has other situations where small-minded people underestimated him. With a law degree from Harvard, I'm sure he doesn't feel he needs more educational creds.

    April 10, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Arizona is one of the most racist States you can live in with a population of less that a third blacks and the highest incarceration of blacks per capital than any other state. But yet ASU recruits blacks for their sports in football and baskeball to enroll. ASU should be boycotted from any federal funding.

    April 10, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Rickymo

    This has GOP and Mc Cain written all over it. What a terrible insult to the President. (remember same state that fought the MLK Jr. holiday to the end). Pity.

    April 10, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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