April 10th, 2009
05:09 PM ET
6 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. thanks, but no thanks

    Bo hoo. Arizona State University statement : "significant contributions to education and society over the course of a person's career". Just by overturning the ban on stem cell research Obama has made a significant contribution to science. Also, forgot the fact that he is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Arizona State University how sad???

    April 10, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. DRS

    If I were Obama, I'd suddenly come down with a stomach virus and not show up at all. Let me then figure out what to do?

    April 10, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  3. Chuck

    So ... now academia is embarrassing itself by kowtowing to the sour-grapes religious right ...

    So much for the separation of church and intellectual life!

    April 10, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. MCD, San Francisco, CA

    Much ado about nothing. The President probably agrees with their reasoning. As to the photo attached to this article... a little melodramatic don't you think?

    April 10, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Independent

    Who cares he is still the President of the US

    April 10, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Debra from Georgia

    For this craziness, President Obama should tell ASU where to stick it. He won't because of his classical, integrity, and gracious ways. I wondered how far the President would have went in his life if he would have went to ASU. Okay, ASU Stick where the sunlight don't shine.

    April 10, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Me in Big D

    If the man had any honor at all, he would politely bow out of the Notre Dame commencement! Of course, as arrogant as he is, he probably won't "take the hint"! Can't believe they asked him to begin with!!!

    April 10, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. Joshua Seraphim

    As an alumni of A.S.U., I am appalled and disgusted at my school's regreftful decision. What an embarassment for A.S.U. and all over Arizona.

    April 10, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. bk

    Yes you have to accomplish something first besides spending our money and talking.

    April 10, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. Chris

    Well he has earned a degree in how to keep our country on the track for bankruptcy. Maybe ASU can give him an honorary degree in destroying our country by instituting policies that will put more debt on our country than the previous 43 presidents combined.

    His degree can state Obama picks up where GW left, bankrupting our wonderful country.

    April 10, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Katy

    While the Arizona State U. decision will likely offend some, all unversties have an obligation to maintain the integrity of their degrees. ASU is correct to wait until Obama amasses achievements. A campaign win is not enough for an honorary degree. I hope the prez isn't offended. If he works hard and comes through for the American people, I'm sure lots of universities will give him an honorary degree.

    April 10, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. kilinoecam

    ASU has been shamed.
    I am appalled by the folks at ASU who don't consider being the first African-American man to be the President of the United States to be a significant contribution to the advancement of our society. I would very much like to know what each of these people did to earn their PhD's that is so much more significant than the outstanding contributions that Obama has made to our society already. These also include rescuing from the ashes the image of our great country in the world: a contribution of profound importance in this global economy (in six months we have gone from having someone throw a shoe at our President to having our new President receiving a hero's welcome across Europe). No significant contributions? Racist and/or politically motivated policies...? Let us ask ourselves how many people around the world have been inspired, motivated, and up lifted by Obama already and compare that to the exclusive list of honorary degree recipients at ASU. Just exactly how much higher do the ASU regents expect Obama to leap?

    April 10, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. JonDie

    I agree that president Obama doesn't yet have the resume to warrant an honorary degree. However, since ASU invited him and then put him in awkward position, I believe the president should decline to speak at the ASU graduation.

    April 10, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. Larry

    People are finally starting to realize what and who Obama really is,it will become more evident with time,even for the Democrats.

    April 10, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Perusing-Through

    RUMOR HAS IT . . . that in absolute discuss for losing an historic Presidential election to a young 'whipper-snapper' from Chicago; Senator McCain and wife Cindy threatened to withdraw $Millions from ASU if they didn't rescind the honorary degree to President Obama.

    April 10, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Ed Hendricks

    I hate to addmit it but I live in this(AZ) state and the Maricopa Republicans are scum devils.

    April 10, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. Ula Nejad Sacramento, Ca

    Why did it take so long for christians to stand up for what they believe believe in? Faith is unshakeable. It only caves in when the foundation becomes weak. Can you see a christian leading in an Asian world? I have not seen one or can't think of one. Unless they come clothed in wolf skin. Deep Faith must be a prerequisite for a President to even come close to feeling safe anymore.

    April 10, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Far Outside the Beltway

    Okay CNN, just want to make sure I understand the gravity of the situation as you've packaged it. The man with an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Law degree from Harvard University, President of the Harvard Law Review, not to mention President of the United States of America, is somehow feeling perplexed and distraught, (if we're to grasp the nuance of the photo you selected for the piece), about not receiving an honorary degree from Arizona State University? Couldn't you have also added the photo from the campaign stop in North Carolina when President Obama had tears running down his cheeks when speaking about the loss of his grandmother. That photo would have cemented in the reader's mind the deep angst and despair the President is suffering due to these commencement "snubs". How does the man find the fortitude to climb out of bed in the morning? I know that if I were forced to endure such "headaches" I'd stop shaving, seek refuge in my recliner and live the rest of my days in my pajamas and bath robe.

    CNN, your take on some things is truly laughable! Help the economy, hire some legitimate journalists!

    April 10, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. Simmy

    Next the US Naval Acad. will say that he didn't serve in the military so he can't come again. Notre Dame should be ashamed. Aren't Catholics supposed to be Christians? And aren't Christians supposed to exhibit the love of God? When did they become holier than God, and begin judging individuals? Sin and moral issues are judged and sentenced in the High Court of God.

    President Obama is an honorable human being. He is on the verge of becoming one of our greatest Presidents. These dissenters are promoting a Republican agenda, and using pertinent issues to advance their causes. Abortion is a hot topic, so they gather up the anti-Obama 'pro-life' activists. Most of them don't even care about the rights of the unborn. They care about diminishing the character of P.. Obama.

    ASU, an institution that should be thrilled the President was gracious enough to give them credibility, has the gall to say his body of work does not meet their requirements is laughable. Their most notable degree as far as I know, is one in fashion design. I never heard of them before today.....T

    April 10, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. Peggy - TX

    President Obama does not need an “honorary degree” he has earned the equivalent of a PHD from Harvard in Law and taught there as well.

    No doubt some bitter Republican Contributors to the Arizona State University pulled a few strings to insult our President.

    Obama should go and talk this graduating class anyways. I expect he will. It appears to me that his ego does not need to be fed by such insignificant trivia. My impression is that President Obama gains sufficient personal satisfaction from saving the US, and possibly the world’s, economy and promulgating world peace.

    April 10, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. Amabo

    don't you think Obama has more important issues to worry about!!!!! This should the be that last thing that should cause him any headache.

    April 10, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  22. Julia Byrd- Hayden Idaho

    Geez, I thought only that kind of stupid mentality was in the State of Idaho, guess Arizona' the little red neck bro of Idaho.

    April 10, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  23. Greg

    One term for Barry Goldwater was 6 years, and O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court was the culmination of an already distinguished career. Obama hasn't been on the job 6 months! No eyebrows raised here.

    April 10, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Craig

    Are you kidding me? "His achievements have yet to merit this honor" What about him becoming the first person of color to lead a western nation. A first world nation that is Euro-dominated? I get the signifigance of that and I am a white guy in my early thirties.

    April 10, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Joe the Troll

    So what? He's already got real degrees from better schools.

    April 10, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
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