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. Jason

    Who cares about Arizona State's decision not to award the president with an honorary degree; I am sure he has bigger fish to fry at this time. The president has already received degrees from 2 of the US' most distinguished universities-I think I speak for everyone when I say, "this is Arizona State's lost" UGHHHH!

    April 10, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. Don

    I agree with the school and I am a huge Obama supporter. To many people have called him the "greatest" or the "best" and he has yet to prove that fact. Obama will make his path and history will reflect, there is no need to honor someone this early..Good call from this school and others could learn from their example.

    April 10, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  3. Smart Person

    I didn't know Bill O'Reilly was on the board for ASU...?

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. tmc

    CONGRATULATIONS ASU – for having more principles and guts than the media, the congress and frankly many Americans that want to proclaim obama's triumphs and successes when he has had none yet. That is not to say he won't actually accomplish something worthwhile and admirable in his life. I for one am anxious for him to decide what he stands for and quick changing for whomever he is addressing.

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. CA for ASU!!!!

    Good for ASU!!!!

    Notre Dame should be ashamed of themselves. They pride themselves on being one of the largest Catholic Universities in the country, yet the invite a pro-abortionist in every sense to be their commencement speaker. Donations outweigh morals......what a shame!!

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  6. Rhonda

    Why should anyone be surprised by this, from a state that would not recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday. This is the home of John McCain, give me a break. Whoever makes the decisions on who should or should not be given a honorary degree should read President Obama's Bio.

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. Mari

    Its hard to take, but what else is new? People are petty!

    What's interesting is that a another president, one who was a war-monger and sanctioned TORTURE....... was approved of by the pro-lifers!
    Hypocrites.

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. Gerry M, Eugene OR

    Arizona State University must be managed by some of the stupidest people on planet Earth. The President is going to address your graduating class and you act like this? I find their behavior totally inexplicable. (That means that I cannot find one rational reason why the managers of the University would behave this way.) I am an instructor at a small college; if President Obama agreed to speak at our graduating ceremony, believe me he would get the highest honors we could find to bestow on him.

    April 10, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. yourcommentisawaitingliberalization

    Bravo ASU, finally someone recognizing the fraud that is our president.

    April 10, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. david becker

    The President should tell ASU to stick it and not go.

    April 10, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. joe

    Who cares its just Arizona State, only scrubs go their, the smart kids go to the university of Arizona.

    April 10, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. ajaye

    Why is anyone surprised at Arizona States decision? I am sure the President knows how they really feel about him and he is not hurt. I, however, would not go, I would let them find someone else, like John McCain or better yet, call George Bush, he's not busy.

    April 10, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. james

    This is ridiculous. They want the president to speak but no honorary? If I were the president I would tel ASU he has better things to do. ASU also is an AS

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. Leonard

    . . . and here's an excerpt from a story about last year's Wesleyan commencement, at which Obama pinch-hit for ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy:

    Obama, who graduated from Columbia University in New York and obtained a law degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had no previous ties to Wesleyan. Today he received an honorary degree of laws from the school.

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Bill

    The President should withdraw from his appearance at ASU. He has dedicated 25 years to public service, has helped thousands of people in Illinois and is working to achieve great changes in the nation's education system. He was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review and, oh yeah, the first African American PRESIDENT of the United States. I am guessing that these yahoos are all members of the Arizona Republican party and that they all lisetn to Rush. They sound as if they are approximately of his mentality. I have looked at the ASU website. The students are so crazy to see President Obama that there are warnings about buying and selling tickets to the commencement. The President should withdraw and teach these lowlife yahoos a lesson.

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. Truth Be Told

    I think that the staff at Arizona State University are being petty and childish. If you don't want to give the man honor for his accomplishments, don't ask him to speak at your commencement. Becoming the first African American President of the United States is worthy of honor by most standards – rational and irrational. ASU is setting a bad example for their students, and they should apologize for allowing the appearance of such foolishness. They should have just invited John McCain if he's their preference. And seriously, who really cares about Arizona State University anyway...Obama is a Harvard Law graduate....

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  17. Letsgetreal

    I guess in Arizona being the first African American president ...and first black editor of the Harvard Law Review ...and what else? is not the stuff of achievement as compared to one term in the Senate and a landslide defeat in a presidential campaign. Go figure.

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. Del

    Good to hear that!

    April 10, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. mike in ohio

    ASU is pathetic. Students should protest their board members making their school look idiotic!

    April 10, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. Molly

    How is this not a sign of racism? …and I’m really not one to jump of the racism band wagon, but what do they mean he hasn’t accomplished anything! Nobody really cares about ASU, however this makes their school look pretty foolish, and why is he bothering with a school like this anyway.

    April 10, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. Nick-o

    Everyone is inbred and members of the KKK up there in Hoosier-land, that's their motiviation for snubbing Obama.

    And many of these state university deans are republicans, seated by governers of the republican states. And this is their brilliant means of taking down a president?

    April 10, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. Dae NYC

    hmm... ASU trying to grab some headlines that might backfire: serioulsy, who really cares about an honorary degree? Its supposed to bring prestige to the school, not to the person who receives it. Which begs the question: why did they invite him in the first place?

    April 10, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. Angela, KCMO

    No offense to ASU, but Obama graduated from Columbia U, and later Harvard. He doesn't need your degree.

    April 10, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. Wes

    I think we should give the Annointed One an Honorary Degree from ASU. How about an Honorary Degree in "MARKETING" ??? He certainly did a good job in marketing himself for a position in the most important job in the world with the least amount of qualifications!

    The best part is THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES is quickly becoming a reality that the rest of us knew well before the election last November.

    April 10, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Don

    Ridiculous! But who cares. That state's senior senator can barely read and write.

    April 10, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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