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. Scott AZ

    If the Naval Academy cancels Obama, than maybe he can find a kindergarten class somewhere he can speak to?

    April 10, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Ken from missouri

    If I were pres Obama I would tell them to go ask mccain maybe they think he would be worth their degree.

    April 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. Sammy

    Well its their choice to decide whether or not to award one. But it looks bad because honorary degrees are symbolic only and deciding not to give one to a president (new or not) is significant. Oh.. and it just had to be Arizona.

    April 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. MisBB

    I think ASu was right in there dessicon in not giving President Obama a honorary degree when he speaks to the graduating class. For he has yet to show the American people what he is all about. So far I have not seen him follow through on some things he said he would do as President.

    April 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. James Charles

    I personally feel that the university has a right to stand by their choices. On the other hand, it's ASU. I'm sorry but as a school who has easily received the ranking for #1 party/drinking school of the U.S. in previous polls, should this actually bother anyone? Glad to see that intellectually advanced schools do not act with such petty mannerisms so far, despite religious pressures and ignorance.

    April 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. wes alum

    It's obvious. He should come back to visit us at Wesleyan University! We would welcome him with open arms and give him 5 awards if he wanted. Then we would plaster his pictures all over the school website to draw in new students.

    April 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Stephen Johnston

    Wow, a university putting politics ahead of education.

    April 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. Marie Marshall

    Who cares? Obama doesn't need an honorary degree from ASU, nor acceptance from Notre Dame fans. He already has a degree from Havard! If these universities do not appreciate the great honor of him speaking at their graduation ceremonies, I'm sure that there are plenty of other universities that would be glad to have him and to present him with an honary degree.

    April 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. CPO Ricker, USN (Ret.)

    I see no controversy. The last time I checked Universities are not government controlled yet, they still have a freedom to choose or say what they want. ASU is right so is Notre Dame for asking Obama to speak or rescinding their invitation.

    April 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. samuels

    Idiots!! Now you can see why ASU is rated at 121st in national college
    rankings by US News–and they are being generous. If they didn't plan to honor him -a former head of he Harvard Law Review- why invite him.

    Perhaps you should have invited Newt Gingrich–his work is already behind him

    Bill

    April 10, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Nick

    The title line of this article must have been written by John King , as it is not in sinc with the contents of the full story... Typical John King type of slant to all his news stories.... I still think he is on the FOX NEWS payroll.

    April 10, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. KLK

    ASU is not the ultimate in academic excellence. I'm willing to venture and guess that President Obama's law degree from Harvard would outweigh any degree from ASU.

    April 10, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. d

    ASU Feel free to invite that LOSER McCain

    April 10, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. Jake

    Mr. Lawrence Douglas Wilder, the first black governor in Virginia was honored by ASU... but not the first black president?

    April 10, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Marv

    How ironic Arizona was the last state to recognize martin Luther Kings birthday as a national holiday they had to be brought kicking and screaming so I would tell the university to kiiss where the sun dont shine.

    April 10, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Embarrassed Citizen

    It should be noted that Arizona State also saw fit to bestow an honorary degree on the Chinese Communist Wu Qidi, but the President of the United States has "yet to rate the honor." What an embarrassment and insult to all Americans.

    April 10, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. A.P. Fremont, Ca.

    They're just "bitter" cause Obama beat one of their own, MCcain. Arizona's opinion really doesn't matter. Arizona didn't even want to designate Martin Luther King's birthday as a legal holiday. So...why should anyone be surprised with the ignorance from a state wherein many ignorant opinions thrive???

    April 10, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Herbert

    This is clearly a vindictive move by all those McCain supporters at ASU. Who am I kidding, its not vindictive its racist.

    April 10, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. vette78man

    The mere fact that he ascended to be the first African-American president, let alone his educational accomplishments and work in the community, doesn't merit a significant contribution to society? ASU's honorary degree obviously isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

    April 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Bruce

    Why don't they just have John McCain speak. If they want to disrespect the President, then they don't deserve his presence!!

    April 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. Mike Buchanan

    Clearly politically motivated at best, racially motivated at worst.

    April 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. Anna, Missouri

    Come on CNN-this is not a headache for the WH, it is a headache for the university. The outrage in Arizona is amazing. The calls for them to undo this ridiculous announcement is hurting the university, not the President.

    April 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. Sam

    I am glad our public and private Universities are still able to see Obama for what he truly is and acknowledge that he really has not accomplished anything. So far his only real quality was a good public speaker and they don't give honorary degrees for that. Come to think of it, without the teleprompters in front of him he is not really even a good speaker. How do you say that in Austrian?

    April 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  24. chris

    Wow. And just what were Bush's achievements and contributions??? Unbelievable. People are so petty. He is everyone's president and he is working simself into the ground trying to keep this country afloat. Show some appreciation you ingrates!

    April 10, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. Larry B

    Finally an organzation – Arizona State – have stepped forward and stated the bovious: President Obama has yet to do anything significant. One could argue that he has done more harm to the country than good ....but we will wait a bit for that story to unfold

    April 10, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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