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. Fair is Fair

    3 cheers to Arizona State University!

    Unfortunately, 53% of those casting votes on November 4, 2008, failed to see a lack of accomplishments like ASU did.

    You get what you pay for.

    April 10, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. donna

    Then they shouldn't have invited Obama in the first place...or it should have been determined at that time and advised to the WH that they wouldn't be extending an "honorary degree"...sounds like they are just looking for some media attention knowing that Obama will still come there to speak...but of course he has a REAL DEGREE from Harvard so I don't think his feelings are hurt...

    As for Notre Dame..it is an honor to have ANY PRESIDENT speak at a commencement...his politics should not play a part in this at all unless he was planning on speaking about stem cell research, abortion, etc...which we ALL know he was not...

    April 10, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Michigander

    Who cares what Arizona thinks? McCain probably complained.

    And Notre Dame and the Catholic church are hypocrites. They expect their priests to be eunuchs (when there is no evidence that Jesus was celibate) and yet those same priests prey on young children. They refuse to allow birth control, yet do nothing to help their parishioners who then have huge families they cannot support. They hate abortion, but support war. No wonder America is so screwed up! We don't know what we believe, and what the church tells us to believe makes no sense.

    April 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. Robin

    He has yet to prove himself as a President. Time will tell if he deserves an honorary degree.

    April 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Donna Flemming

    This is outrageous and sad – to be so disrespectful to a man who has obviously accomplished so much. Shame on ASU!

    April 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Judi in Minnesota

    What do you expect from the University of ARIZONA. Perhaps they are still miffed that their guy didn't win.

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Tommy Boy

    I am a huge Obama supporter but I must agree with ASU's statement that our president has yet to earn an honorary degree. I am also opposed to abortion but I take exception to the Right To Life Committee asking Notre Dame to rescind their invitation. Abortion is a topic of ageless debate that belongs in the moral catagory, not the political arena. Women who are inclined to have an abortion will do so whether the procedure is legal or illegal.

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. Albert N.

    You'd think the books he wrote would count for something. Oh, well, it's only a state university.

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. Frank

    "Sandra Day O'Connor and Barry Goldwater — both Arizonans — received the honor after the former had served just over one term in the Senate, and the latter was roughly three years into her Supreme Court tenure."

    CNN, I'm pretty sure that Sandra Day O'Connor was never in the Senate, and that Barry Goldwater is a man. You should check out your use of "former" and "latter". ;-)

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. THOMAS

    If the same attention and outrage had been focused on the catholic priests that have been continually molesting innocent children, then they might have more credability in my eyes to complain. Additionally, millions of dollars could have been saved to help the poor .

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. Sickened

    Arizona can fall off the face of the map as far as I'm concerned. Maybe their saving their oh so prestigious degree for Joe the Plummer!

    April 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  12. AJ

    I like President Obama okay, but it's nice to see an institution that is not treating him as the "second coming." I agree he has not made any significant contributions to society through his work, though I do believe his election is a great step forward for America. Lets see if he can now live up to the expectations that he and his campaign staff promoted.

    April 10, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Ray Fisher

    The President brings honor upon himself regardless of others, his is but to honor our nation with his actions not words and ceremony!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. Makes sense to me

    Makes sense to me. Why should any college or university award Obama an Honorary degree? He hasn't accomplished anything of signficance as a Senator and as a president the only thing he has accomplished is increase the debt of the US. Thanks for nothing Obama. BTW, as a senator, what did he do for the state if Illinois. Chicago's crime rate has skyrocketed and their former Governor was as corrupt as one of Chicago's mob bosses. Yet for some reason, people chose Obama to become president because he represented CHANGE. Oh yes, we're going to see that CHANGE alright. God help us all.

    April 10, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Linda

    WOW President Barack Obama is really going to lose sleep over this, Like he does not have more important things to worry about.

    April 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. G

    What a double standard, I guess in their eyes he's not worthly but hopefully he will prove them wrong.

    April 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. G MAN

    Althought I really don't care if he receives an Honoary degree or not, this is just a "buckle under the pressure" situation . What the school and most will not recognize, is the significance of his presidency by just being a black candidate to galvanize americans to to vote for him. The Idea that he has inspired the youth of America and the world like no other candidate in our history should get him the degree. But to many in this country, I understand they don't understand this aspect, and will seek any reason not to extend this same honor.to him.

    In other words, African americans have to prove their honor first, at their institution.

    April 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. A little sad

    As a Phoenix resident, I am not surprised but am dismayed that this sub-standard public institution would be so petty as to snub our president.

    Very bad form.

    April 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Bleebo

    Than he sould not honor them by speaking at thier commencement exercise. ASU is full of crap. Not to be petty but what is there requirement, and why is this an issue. Did President Obama ask for an honorary degree? I don't think so. He is bestowed the highest honor in the Land right NOW, ASU is the POTUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Miguel

    I am definitely not Obama's biggest fan, but if you invite the President of the U.S. to speak, and he agrees, you should give him an honorary degree (or at the very least, not make a point of announcing that he won't get one). ASU is getting a little above themselves I think.

    April 10, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. DickNH

    Obviously, ASU has no credibility here...President Obama should tell ASU to find a commencement speaker who would fit their intellect...maybe Joe the Plumber is available...or Rove, Palin, Steele ...y'know, someone who fits their criteria...."idiot".

    Shame on ASU for this direct insult to the President of the United States.

    April 10, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Hispanic in Dallas, TX

    Agreed, I think they made the right decision...he's not accomplished anything!!

    April 10, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. Tinu

    Church: 1 United States: 0

    No doubt the catholic overlords at ASU (fuming republican loosers) have threatened to withdraw funding for ASU if they honor BHO. GWB's destruction of the US image was hopefully awarded with a honorary degree in advance. Church + State = theocracy; in which case, stop calling Iran names. Is this subtle racism or what, and by the way, I'm not black. There is a time and place for telling people what to believe and not to believe, its called sunday at the church.

    April 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    "The university says that the president's achievements have yet to rate the honor" – yes – let's see what he actually does.

    I hope Obama does great things during his term in office, but the hype of the election is over. We are all waiting to see what he does.

    Just being a certain mix of race, and having a throng of screaming fans, not being-Bush, taking corporate money, and making good speeches is not a list of accomplishments.

    April 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Laverne

    ASU should be ashamed of itself. Maybe this is their way of honoring John McCain by not honoring President Obama. This man was the first AA on the Harvard Editoral review, Author of 2 best selling books, respected law professor and oh yea, He is the freakin POTUS! How much more can one achieve in a lifetime. There is something definitely wrong with this picture!

    April 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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