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. muffy

    ASU is a joke!! It is nothing but a party school and a prestigious university like Notre Dame is awarding Pres. Obama an honorary degree. He is also speaking at the US Naval Academy. I could not figure why he accepted the invitation to speak at ASU. Arizona is rife with Repugs and no doubt that is why he is not getting an honorarium. He has more degrees and more intelligence than anyone in that school. They should have come up with a better excuse. Half of the students are selling their tickets to graduation to people who appreciate our wonderful President and want to hear him speak.

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. sam

    This is ridiculous. It is a great honor to have the President speak to them and his accomplishments are greater than most people have ever achieved. It is clearly either political or racial and I am sorry that President Obama is even going there. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Angela

    It would be a great time in American history when folks stop putting their poltics before common sense.

    April 10, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. obama/mama

    These people are unbelievable. Nothing but a bunch of racists.

    April 10, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Moderate Democrat

    Oh noes, he won't have a degree from ASU....the school for lower learning. He's only got one from Harvard and is President of the USA.

    Boy, you sure showed him. And, yea, you gave your coveted award to someone who held office for 1 year?

    Ever look at the number of blacks compared to whites at ASU? Call a 'spade' a 'spade'....they are extremem racists over there.

    April 10, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. Liberal and Proud of It dot com

    Well, Arizona does have some bizarre politics. I have read the occasional local paper during layovers at Sky Harbor airport, and they news they read there has a definite right-wing slant to it. Those folks have no idea what is happening in the rest of the nation. I suspect that the ASU president received more than a few calls from Republican state legislators who reminded him of the upcoming university budget and suggested that he might give the Obama award more thought. He apparently got the message.

    April 10, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Patriot

    Keeping the power-hungry Clintons out of the Oval Office was quite an amazing accomplishment if you ask me :)

    April 10, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. D Va.

    Why not? He as accomplished more in three months than Bush did in eight years. Perhaps if McCain would have won the election he would have been awarded this, but he didn't win- Arizona State in on University. They are missing the boat and history will prove it.

    April 10, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Binky

    CHEERS! to Arizona State University for recognizing what the "voters" in this country failed to see.

    The office of the Presidency of the US has become a "GED training school" for an impostor, who has no credentials.

    April 10, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Debra Austin, Texas

    The graduates of ASU should boycott contributions to a school that demonstrates such questionable logic and leadership. The President must be a GENIUS. If you look at the list of prior recepients you would recognize that their 'excuse' is baloney. Regardless of their illogical and perhaps ridiculous response, you have to wonder why they would choose Obama to even give the commencement speech if he is not of the caliber of person who should receive an "honorary" degree, like Barry Goldwater and George Romney or Doug Wilder or the Chinese Communist Education Minister. What you do find is the list of McCain contributors on ASU's board . And doesn't it sound funny to hear "he's (Obama) not experienced enough". Kind of sounds like a campaign chant of McCain's. ASU is a third rate school and Obama should never have accepted the request to begin with. Leave them with inviting McCain for the 30th time.

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. R

    only fair. At least unlike the media comparing him to Lilcon just after a few days in office

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. Letcommonsenseprevail

    Looks like the Chosen One isn't so popular after all.

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. LT

    This is rediculous. The man doesn't need to further proove himself to a state school. Why even ask him to speak if this rediculous move was going to be made. They are acting as if a state school "honorary degree" will shine brighter on the wall next to his OTHER life accomplishments....hmmm namely the seal of the President of the United States of American.

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Todd

    He shouldn't go but he will because he's better than that.
    ASU students shoud be embarrased.
    Look up the list of people that did get honorary degrees from ASU and laugh at this is a JOKE!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Joe Smoe

    The man has not been in office for 100 days yet and you are judging him on what he has done. Why are you even asking him to address these students, sure he has more important things to do than talk to a bunch of college grads especially in Arizona why didn't you ask favorite son MCCain or his miss palin to address your college.
    It probably really won't stop him from making this country great again if you don't give him an honorary degree, what is it worth anyway, he has all he needs!!!

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Gayle

    I agree with ASU. He hasn't accomplished anything. Unless you count winning the "which is Cinderella prettiest step sister" contest known as our presidential election.

    April 10, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Cmmntr

    Who would want an honorary degree from Arizona State? It's biggest reputation is as a party school. Their idea of a body of work is a big pile of empty beer cans.

    April 10, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  18. Steve In California

    WOW! And Bush's "body of work" could fit in a locker at the Crawford bus station (or an indictment), and he got honorary degrees. Arizona is McCain country. Is anyone really surprised at this?

    April 10, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  19. Kenneth

    Obama already graduated from Columbia and Harvard Law. I wouldn't think he really cares about a honorary degree from ASU.

    April 10, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Why is this news. Move on

    April 10, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Aaron, Chicago

    Not only is it rude to do this, you don't rescind an invitation to the President of the United States. Everyone should boycott Arizona State University and not send any donations........

    April 10, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Pete

    1. Arizona State is being petty. Nothing more, nothing less.
    2. Funny how the so-called "staunch Catholics" had no problem with Republican politicians who support the death penalty speaking at Notre Dame, even though the Catholic Church condemns the death penalty in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

    April 10, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. 4 and No More

    ASU is restoring my confidence in the decision making ability in academia. In spite of all of the "Yea...we elected Obama!!!" hoopla, they are exactly correct.

    So far what has he done? With a rubber-stamp congress he has borrowed a few trillion dollars from the US population and this whole stimulus thing may end up being just a really expensive mistake. ASU is smart enough not to hang an honorary degree on a public figure at this point when the jury is still out.

    April 10, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. Who cares about ASU??

    It's not like Harvard, MIT or Stanford decided not to reward the President with an honorary degree.

    Move on to bigger and better things!

    April 10, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Paul Dobro

    Odd title – "Headache for the WH". I don't think this "snub" is a headache for the WH at all. It will be a major headache for ASU before it is all said and done.

    As for the Notre Dame issue, it has sparked a need debate of the issues. Why have Bush speak after killing more prisoners as Texas Govener (which is against the Pope and Church doctrine) and protest Obama. You cannot pick and chose your beliefs.

    April 10, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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