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. Time for Term Limits

    Anyone, regardless of the color of their skin, who is elected POTUS and has already imlemented dramatic change by reversing Bush policies on torture, Guantanomo Bay, stem cells should be treated the same as a Supreme Court justice with 3 years on the high court or a US Senator with just over one term in the Senate. Sounds like Arizona has a little affirmative action for whites going on.

    April 10, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. Hendrik

    Oh, how I like the way we make our choices. For crying out loud, the man is the President of the United States. Arizona State University should take a stand and publicly disinvite the President. Then we would know for sure that the insitution is part of the Republican unoiled machine. How quick true motivations are uncovered.

    April 10, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. ray ray

    Hurray for ASU!!

    They have the courage to do the RIGHT THING, unlike Notre Dame, a Catholic School, who invites the WORST President in US History when it comes to protecting the rights of the unborn!

    If I were a graduating Cadet at the US Naval Academy... I would have to skip graduation due to a horrible cold that suddenly came on. The irony... President Barack "Waive-the-white-flag" Obama addressing the future warriors of our nation.

    April 10, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Shirley In California

    This is a pure case of racism. Nothing else. President Obama should just cancel and ignore them.

    April 10, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Dave in Arizona

    You can thank John McCain for the Arizona State snub.

    April 10, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Charles

    Why is it a headache for the administration again?

    April 10, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. AchillesIQ

    "The university says that the president's achievements have yet to rate the honor..."

    HELLO... Mr Obama just become the first black president of the United States Of America. How much greater of an historical achievement were you seeking AZ???!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Alex

    Me and 1.3 billion Red Chinese don't give a crap.

    April 10, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Diana NJ

    Fortunately for President Obama, he is smart enough to received any degree he sets his mind to receiving by earning it. He is a the few who does not need to give a speech at a graduation to receive it.

    He still believes in the people of his country, I sometimes find it difficult to do so when I read or hear the news and opionions of the House, the Senate and the experts.

    Everything I know about the man says he believes in a womans right to choose. That is not the same thing that has been put out there.. that he believes in abortion, partcial birth abortion and on and on and on.

    April 10, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. gl, Pittsburgh

    Diocese have more fish to fried like all the guy Presits they produce.

    April 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. lucas

    hmmm, first black president has not made a significant contribution to society?

    April 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Mark

    One of the missions of a university (in theory, if not always in practice) should be to present differing points of view in order to allow for reasoned and rational debate. Protesting against someone whose beliefs are opposite yours is perfectly acceptable. Denying that person the right to speak is not.

    I wonder if the Right to Life crowd who have been so vocal in their opposition to President Obama because of his views on abortion would be as equally vocal on former President Bush were he asked to speak at Notre Dame given his views on the death penalty?

    If they were, I could at least admire them for their consistency. As it is, I'm just disappointed by their hypocrisy.

    If all life is sacred and worthy of protection, then the level of their protests against abortion and the death penalty should approximate each other. Unfortunately, death row convicts aren't quite as equal as the unborn.

    April 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Mark in Atlanta

    Big deal. Seems like Obama has already achieved plenty, but it's clearly up to the school. And it's not like Obama was going there because he really, really wanted a degree fro Arizona State.

    April 10, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. abc ~ anything but california hugh

    In the land of Barry Goldwater and John McCain, and the state that held out on acknowledging MLK Day for years, where we to expect a different response towards President Obama at ASU?

    April 10, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. Len in Washington

    This is no big deal. Their correct. He's only been President for three months and needs to establish a "record."

    I don't see this as a 'bad thing."

    April 10, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. IndyVoter

    Clearly Arizona State Univ. (no coincidence its Sen. McCain's state) is playing politics, but oh well...so what? President Obama has earned degrees from Harvard Law and Columbia Universities. He is an accomplished author, Legislator and now Cheif Executive and Statesman of our great country. He doesn't need Arizona's land grant college to give him an honorary degree. Pleeease.

    April 10, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. danka1

    II don't think he should attend Arizona State University’s graduation. He should decline.
    In regards to University of Notre Dame – I think if the FBI runs a check on those priests who are protesting, they too have something on them. They should give it a try.

    April 10, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Ms Russell

    This is just stupid. Are these supposed to be America's brightest? Seem rather dim-witted.

    April 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. Kevin

    What?! This is just so hilariously stupid, I don't even know where to start, so I won't LMAO. I can't wait to hear him crack jokes at himself about this one LOL. He's going to make ASU wish they hadn't done that. Do the words Harvard, Senator, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, mean anything to these nimrods?! LOLOL

    April 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. Tim

    Mo Udall was a Congressman: He was NEVER in the Senate. Do your homework, CNN !

    April 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. anderson

    This snub to the President says more about ASU than Obama.

    April 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. Kevin

    Sounds like ASU is being racist to me. There's no way around it and no other explanation unless they'd like to give more details as to their decision.

    April 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Alan

    Shame on ASU!

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. R Wolf

    ASU certainly has some idiots making their decisions. Let's see, President Obama is a published author, served in the US Senate,
    President of the law review, Harvard grad, and, oh yes, he is our President. What do the ASU board have to brag about? I guess they
    need to change their initials from ASU to AS_ as that is how they will
    now be remembered.

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. jim

    who cares.another cnn non story.no wonder cnn is third place on cable news.

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
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