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. tevis

    Hilarious. As if Obama would even want a degree from a dumpy, second-rate school like ASU. Save him the trouble.

    April 10, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Wayne ( Canada )

    what a crock!!! Not good enough yet??? He is already more accomplished than Bush. my God!! he is president of the United States and he does not warrant an honorary dgree???Ridiculous!!!Must be a republican state!!!

    April 10, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Would it be at all possible to focus on the 8,000 graduating students who actually earned their degrees from ASU, or does it once again have to be all about President Obama? As usual, the media blows an issue way out of proportion and takes the focus off of what truly matters–in this case, the students who are graduating from college and deserve not to have their day of celebration marred by meaningless political garbage.

    April 10, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. MWA

    Wonder how much Arizona Republicans had to do with that one.

    April 10, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. HouseDiva

    it's ironic that McCain was from Arizona....their just bitter.

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. Jonita

    This is all about "Policticks" and Nothing more I'm sure there are other schools out there that would welcome The President ..

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  7. Veronica

    Arizona is also the state that does not want to celebrate Martin Luther King day....Perhaps the fact that Obama is the first black president of the USA has something to do with the University's decision.
    Furthermore, President Obama has already earn a degree from Harvard, an honorary degree from Arizona would be an step down for him.
    Arizona is not Ivy league.

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. dumbocrat alert

    maybe if he does his bow, they will give him his honorary degree !

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Dott in Detroit

    President Obama: tell both ASU and U of Notre Dame to stick their invitations up where the sun does not shine.

    Both institutions are disrespectful of you, your accomplishments and your position as POTUS. Why did they invite you?

    DON'T go! DON'T let them USE you to draw those larger-than-life crowds they've never had before. YOU and ONLY you WILL guaranteed the media publicity – they're trying to create.

    They will THUMB their noses in you face. No matter what you've achieved – You will NEVER be good enough for THEM!

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Becky in Indiana

    I emailed the ASU chancellor to let him now denying our PRESIDENT an honorary degree after inviting him to speak at the 2009 commencement speaks volumes and should be reconsidered. What a huge mistake ASU is making. What President Obama has already achieved in his life is enough to earn an honorary degree. I guess the President will have to settle for his REAL degree from Harvard.

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Leonard

    Just to show how low-rent ASU is, Yale gave John F. Kennedy an honorary degree after only a few months in the White House–following about a dozen years of unremarkable service in the Congress.

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. God is Watching You

    The commencement season controversies are continuing for the White House.***"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. You are a lie and a Racist ......Same with the protestors re Notre Dame
    I know you wont admited it but it is all about Race (1st Black President )
    **we as a country should look At what's happening now Tornados,Wildfires,kidnapping,Killing ... God is trying to tell us something .... 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.Notre Dame I don't recall any Protest regarding the Child Molestation

    April 10, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. dmg

    All I can say is I'm not suprised. These people should be ashamed, of themselves. I bet they would praise him if any of the stim money came there way!! some things never change no matter how far you've come.

    April 10, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. Bev - NYC

    University of AZ and Notre Dame once again provig that higher education does not mean you have brains. All this outrage about fetus', priest sex abuse = SILENCE. Get your own glass cathedral in order Bishop. or at least be honest, say your big bucks Republican alumni are pissed and you need their donations, so you are bowing to the frat boy antics. I'm sure the President is quite happy with his real degrees from Columbia and Harvard.

    April 10, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. MG

    You can add Erma Bombeck to the list of honorary ASU degree holders. Exactly what has she contributed? This smacks of major racism. Keep in mind Arizona wouldn't acknowledge Martin Luther King Day until the NFL threatened to take the super bowl from there. I'd say being the first african american president in history is a pretty big contribution to society.

    April 10, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Sue, NY

    He should tell both of them ...."thanks but no thanks"...get someone else....he has plenty to do and doesn't need this pettiness.

    April 10, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. celtcwrtr

    why should he care is arizona state decides to snub him? he doesn't need an honorary degree from them... he has REAL degrees from columbia & harvard. you know, school's that actually matter.

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. alex

    Oh boo hoo. Cry me a river.

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. MissLady

    Pres. Obama has degrees from Columbia and Harvard. An honorary degree from ASU would be the equivalent to toilet paper on the bottom of his shoe.

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. JP

    Its not news that he has not accomplished anything.

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. Joan

    Could it be that the problem with Arizona is due to the fact that
    the Republicans are in that State ??? The Republicans are finding fault with everything else !! I wish that they would "get a life!"

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  22. JS

    IMO, I think is their loss. President Obama does not need the "Honorary Degree" form ASU. Isn't this the state that was the last one to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a holiday. I'm not surprised.

    April 10, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. George

    Really? ASU is one step above a community college and two steps below Bob Jones University. They can keep their degree and give it to one of their half-drunk, under-educated and over-sexed students.

    April 10, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Daniel Smith

    Who cares. ASU made the right decision and Obama's great so why is this a headache? Sounds like an exaggeration by the press to me.

    April 10, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  25. Jennifer

    That's just flat-out rude! I can't imagine why the President is wasting his time on these university commencement addresses anyway - surely there are other, more appreciative venues for his inspiration and wisdom!

    April 10, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
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