April 10th, 2009
05:09 PM ET
9 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)

    Not surprised that a racist state like arizona would have a university
    that feels that way. After all they were one of the last states to recognize
    the Martin Luther King holiday.

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

    President Obama consider the source. You don't need ASU, Norte Dame or any of those idiot so called higher education institutions. It's racism as usual.

    April 10, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. samuels

    Not very nice–for a school that is ranked 121st in the nation by US News & World Report they are lucky that the President agreed to come and speak. If you don't plan to honor him-then why invite him


    April 10, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. johnny

    I'm tired of hearing about the whole Notre Dame thing. The University invited him, and he accepted. Now, if he HADN'T accepted, the press would be all over him like white on rice for that. Our President wakes up every single day in someone's crosshairs, and it's just sickening.

    April 10, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. ATR

    Really CNN?? A commencement headeache? Isn't there any real news out there? Why don't you see how many other universities aren't awarding the President an honorary degree? What a joke you are CNN; journalism worthy of Star magazine.

    April 10, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. KLK

    ......I forgot to mention Columbia.

    April 10, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. Tony in Maine

    Should Arizona State offer an honorary doctorate to President Obama at some point in the future, I certainly hope he accepts it and proves he is less a weasel than they. I also hope he has some fun with them in his speech.

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

    MODERATION! The facts are true–ASU IS ranked at the bottom in college evaluation by US NEWS. Also it is not :moderate" to invite a guest=- any guest=and then insult him.


    April 10, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. Antonio Tatum

    Blant Racism. Go firgure the university of the home of president hopeful John McCain. I say to ASU grow-up this man does not need your honory degree to validate him. A man who graduated head of his class from America's most prestigous college. You have the nerves to question his commitment and contribution... PLEASE. If I was President Obama would rescind the offer.

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Reality Counts

    Actually being the President of the USA is a greater achievement than an fake diploma. For most graduates, The best part of commencement is getting out of School! Kind of like wiping your feet after walking throught the mud. [notice I said feet after wiping and no mention of the flush]

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. David Jones

    "Significant contributions over the course of one's career..." for the first African American President does not seem to meet ASU's standards. If Obama never did anything else while president, he already has matched the criteria laid out by ASU. Is McCain a Board of Trustee?

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Dan, TX

    Poor Notre Dame, sabotaged by the Catholics.

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. And Notre Dame alumni are.....

    furious and this is going to cost ND huge donations over the coming years. The alumni are totally against a President that promotes the killing of fetuses. ND is a predominant catholic university and killing fetuses is abhorrent to catholics.

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Iva Taylor

    I am sure President Obama can live without an honorary degree from Arizona State. Big deal! What news!

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. Rufus

    Finally some people not blinded by celebrity !

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    Obama has a degree from Harvard.
    Time to boycott Arizona.
    Obama should cancel his speech.

    Obama 2012

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. John

    Yes, and apparently Erma Bombeck was worthy of the honor 1980. Clearly their standards are quite high.

    April 10, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  18. H Martin

    I know I am in moderation like always, but here it goes...

    I live in AZ and believe that President Obama should be given the Honorary Degree from ASU. My daughter attends college there, has put herself through by grants and loans, and I have a son that is applying there also. We believe in hard work and determination not hand outs. We know that President Obama has done more for the country in the almost 3 months in office then our last president did in his 8 years. Why is it an issue with ASU to not recognize him?

    Just because it is AZ and McCain did not win does not mean we have to become the "State of NO" or the "University of NO" we already have a party for that and Notre Dame took credit for the University already!

    April 10, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. Miss Congeniality

    Yes, obviously becoming PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES is not an accomplishment worthy of an honorary degree from the most prestigious of institutions, Arizona State University.

    April 10, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Larry

    Talk about Political Bull droppings ...

    Obama doesn't need your degree ...

    A piece of wrinkled paper ...

    He's got a country to run ...

    April 10, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. martha

    Well, all I can say is, "Swell. Just when we thought that judgmental racists were quieted down in academia."

    Hopefully, they won't have the opportunity to confer a degree on President Obama again.

    April 10, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. Chuckles

    If Jesus had sat down with folks like him, His table would have been empty. The University of Notre Dame is exemplifying Christ by allowing someone ideologically different from Catholics to speak at their table. I commend them on setting this example.

    April 10, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Josh

    Hey, if ASU and Notre Dame don't want the President of the United States, We will take him here at Washington University in St. Louis!!!!!


    April 10, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. margi

    Our Harvard graduate, Law Professor, Author, Senator and first African-American President of the US should "respectfully" refuse their degree when they decide that he has finally become an accomplished person.

    April 10, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Michelle

    I believe President Obama will not stoop to the level of bickering over this issue, so neither should we.

    Besides, he has a real degree from Harvard Law. Arizona State has nothing on that.

    April 10, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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