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. NMAPhiDelt484

    Mo Udall was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, retired in 1991. He was not a member of the U.S. Senate. I do agree that he was a legendary figure.

    April 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Sea.gem

    How dare you not bow to the Obama?...he bows to others...

    April 10, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Jerry

    This is utterly stupid. I'd have respect for these schools if they just said they didn't like him because of whatever reason instead of sugarcoating the whole thing. Why only in America does this happen?

    April 10, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. pat C.

    this is insane and so disrespectful of our president. i think obama should tell them all to shove it! he has enough people that love him supporting him therefore he shouln't waste a minute of his precious time on such low-rent biggets.
    the world loves you mr. president, don't forget that!!

    April 10, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. Los

    Isn't Arizona State one of the nation's top party schools?

    April 10, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. eholl

    He did just beat the Senator from Arizona for the Presidency. Is this a surprise that they don't honor his accomplishment of being the first black man to rise from a poor, struggling, mixed-race family to become President of the United States. Can't think of any better contriubution than being the role model that he is. ASU should be ashamed of itself for thinking is such a limited fashion about the definition of success.

    April 10, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Tim

    Let me be the first to say, ha ha ha ha.

    April 10, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. Linda32

    Seems like they want the headline of having a historic President at there commencement, but do not want to afford him the honor his deserves simply by the office he holds.

    I say that the President should rescind he's acceptance!

    April 10, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Tim

    Let me also be the first to say it will only be a matter of seconds before a democrat turns this into a racial thing.

    April 10, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. tedious898

    I just don't understand. Is the point to make the children suffer from not having a historic President visit their school? Or is it to overturn – protest Roe v. Wade?

    Its the law...no matter how anybody feels about it (including the President). Granted, he has the chance to do something about it but his predecessor didn't – And ?????

    I wish these people would be as passionate about saving the millions of poor children currently suffering starving and dying all over the world. If they went that route, their position might seem less hypocritical. I said "Might"

    April 10, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Anthony R. Seta

    I respect the position of ASU. Obama will eventually earn the right to an honorary degree once these draconian ASU benchmarks have been satisfied.

    Obama should politely decline the invitation to Notre Dame. It's obvious that he isn't wanted there and I fear that these ideologically and religously motivated people will use this event to create a grand spectacle with lots of controversy. By finding an acceptable excuse of having something else to do, the prez can avoid this whole fiasco and focus on the issues that we elected him to do.

    April 10, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. 228rory

    Ouch.....sssssss... Burn...

    I wonder how this will effect the institutions PR image in the future and student enrollment? That statement was really harsh.

    April 10, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Lisa C

    I wouldn't worry. This is from an institution that gave Kermit the Frog an Honorary Degree in 1996. Too bad they're blinded to facts that we know their intentions. Mr. President, you're more worthy than a meaningless faux Degree, especially from Arizona. Your educational background and your American success speaks for itself. ASU, give your degree to the bottom 3 of his class, Senator McCain. LOL! That's where it belongs.

    April 10, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Dan Holiday

    For all of the libs out there that say the Republican party will be extinct, I say this, "Are you insane?" You guys have just recaptured the Presidency for the first time in 8 years. You have held that office only 12 years since 1969, so don't get ahead of yourselves. Let me say that again. 12 out of the last 40 years. The Republicans are not going anywhere fast. We are the party of Lincoln and Reagan. You are the party or Carter and LBJ. You need to read the writing on the wall and see that across the boards, your polling numbers are dropping like a sack of cement. Republicans tend to do well in rough economic times. That is a fact. And when Barry and the crew run this economy further and further into the ground people will rise up and vote them out. Mark my words. The democrats are the obstructionist, litigation, whiner, PC, victim hood party. That is not what America is about. Go ahead and flame this post, but I know deep down inside you are afraid. Why else would you keep Sarah Palin in the news? If she is so inconsequential why are there daily stories about her? You fear that people will find out the truth about your party and jump ship.

    April 10, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. President Obama Brings It!

    What do you expect from Arizona. Not surprised.

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. Independent starting to doubt Obama

    How embarrassing for the President. If this happened to GW Bush this would be plastered all over the front page of every newspaper and the MSNBC and CNN would have a field day. Obama just got DISSED.

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. 30m-Democrat-voted Clinton then McCain

    I agree with ASU. Why should he recieve a honorary degree? He hasn't done anything. I'm not sure why he's even president.

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Puzzled

    Let me get this straight; after all, snobbery is as snobbery does: President Obama is, for some reason, choosing to honor this undistinguished college by speaking there, and they rare up on their hind legs and presume to judge his accomplishments? Why his presence there at all? To prove that a Harvard graduate can also notice Airzona State? Okay, done. And Arizona State, whoever speaks for it, instead of being grateful and humbled, withholds their little honorarium from him? Okay, this has triggered my inner snob, I admit it, but...Arizona? What gives?

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. President Obama Brings It!

    As for Notre Dame, I would not speak where my presence was not wanted.

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. Johnny from VA

    If they can honor Cesar Chavez, they should honor Obama... they are very similar in many respects and Obama has lived in the US most of his life so he has that advantage over Chavez.

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. colleen

    This is ridiculous. The first African American President who is someone to be admired deserves the honorary degree although why he would want one from Arizona is beyond me

    April 10, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Someone quick, look up where Bush made his very first commencement speach and whether he was granted an honorary degree. Note: He'd only been governor for a few years, had failed in every single business endeavor he'd engaged in prior to that and had been a terrible student all his life.

    And c'mon...Arizona? I mean, let's get real here...they probably only invited him so they could couple it with this snub.

    April 10, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. Texas Annie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    As one who is heavily invested in tuition for my children at Notre Dame, I am THRILLED they have invited President Obama to speak. Hopefully Fr. Jenkins will stick to his guns and receive the President warmly next month. Hopefully the idiotic protestors will have the common sense & decency to not ruin this commencement for the graduates.

    April 10, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Nate Hussein

    Then do not attend Mr. Prez.

    April 10, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. Macushla

    Boy...I bet President Obama is going to be so disappointed not to attend ASU - Not! Why on earth would he care? And why did ASU feel the need to put out a press release to say they're not going to invite him. Are they so desperate for publicity. Another non-issue CNN - you're getting good at them.

    April 10, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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