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. Steph

    Well, why in the world did ASU ask him to speak at their commencement if they just planned to insult him?!?! This makes ASU look bad.

    April 10, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. S Callahan

    well, he then fits the category....significant social contribution....
    But I agree, never give praise before it's due.

    April 10, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Leilani

    Please! That old racist state Arizona. They shouldn't have even invited him if they weren't going to treat him appropriately. Somebody on that board is PISSED that he is the speaker and they are demanding that he not get the degree (not that he needs it!).

    It's the principle. And the principle is, that if they do not honor him appropriately, they are screaming to the nation that they don't like our black president. Period.

    Good thing I'm not the president cause I wouldn't go. Since Obama is the president and a servant of our citizens and he is going to serve regardless of past protocol or principle. In the end it's not about honoring the president as much as it is about honoring the accomplishiments of the graduates.

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

    It's unbelievable, President Obama doesn't seem to realize he there only to serve at the behest of catholics. Or are the pedophilic cult 'leaders' angry because the Obamas don't have any young boys for them to abuse?

    April 10, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. chenna benna

    Hmmmm....Let's see:

    First African American to be president of the Harvard Law Review

    Harvard Constitutional Law professor

    2 best selling books

    Illinois state senator

    US Senator

    First African American to become President of the United States

    Yeah that's right. "His body of work is yet to come." If this is what they do to someone who has achieve as much as our president has done, then their degree isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Pres. Obama if you want a REAL honorary degree, come to Temple University's commencements on May 14th. We would be honored to have you as a speaker.

    April 10, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Don in Boca Raton Florida

    Once again Arizona doesnt fail in it's bid to be the most incredulous state in the nation. The President doesnt need an honorary degree from ASU.... He has a "REAL" degree from Harvard.

    April 10, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Stand Up and Fight

    Great Job ASU and Notre Dame. Others schools out their should learn from the actions of these 2 schools who put their principles first.

    Obama has not accomplished a thing in his life besides running for the most likeable guy in the world who bows to other world leaders. Remember their is a big difference between being "LIKED" and being "RESPECTED".

    Go Sun Devils & Fighting Irish...

    April 10, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  8. Meka

    ASU is a sorry excuse for a University! What a joke! A brilliant man who has shaped the history of the US in becoming the first African American President has not achieved enough? His name is known from coast to coast around the globe, even in the most desolate regions of the world. He ran such a brilliant campaign and has shown himself to be an extraordinary politician. He redefined presidential elections and modernized the way a president and campaign communicate with citizens. And that is nothing? I don't know one leading figure from ASU! What idiots!!

    April 10, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. Tom Kaye

    Nothing like playing politics rather than honoring someone who came from a mix-raced family, raised by a single mom, then raised by grandparents, then went to college, then worked as a community staffer, then got elected Senator, wrote two best selling books, and finally achieved the highest office in the world . . . and the first African American to do it.

    Yeah . . . he hasn't got a body of work yet!!!

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

    That is the best statement I have seen CNN post. I've been saying it all along. Everyone is praising this man and he hasn't even done anything - but cause controveries with his cabinet nominees in which most of them have been confirmed.

    April 10, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. None ya bidness

    You mean to tell me someone actually wants to see how Obama performs as President before they give him an award?!?! HOW DARE YOU?! How dare you have expectations of the great one?
    Oh yeah they must be racist.

    April 10, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Paul, Riverside CA

    If you are a priest and you molest little children it's okay, by Catholic Church standards? But if you are the President of the United States, favor a woman's right to choose, and stem cell research you get criticized by a the Diocese. This is why I am not Catholic anymore.

    As for ASU, home state of John McCain.... nuff said.

    April 10, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. Fordy

    Who writes these headlines? How on earth could this be a headache for the whitehouse? Are u kidding me? The man is a Harvard graduate for crying out loud. Where is Arizona? Stueps!

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

    Here is the funny thing about this whole pile of nothing the media is trying to make of this, do anyone really thinks he is worried about ASU or ND actions? I think not. The man is the President of the United States, a former Senator, and a Harvard Law Grad, so go figure. But on top, of that when he does speak to the body of students at those Universities, it will probably be one the best speeches they will ever hear.

    April 10, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. New Day

    This is a silly story. I'm pretty sure President Obama is not too concerned about getting a fake degree. As for ASU, I just see it as the old guard having a hard time exiting gracefully. As Pat Buchanon said this morning(paraphrasing), President Obama should go there, give his speech, receive his standing ovation and not worry about getting an honorary degree.

    What I want to know is, why do college and university commities invite someone they don't care for?

    April 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. Joeen

    Enough about Obama, he already thinks he's a Rock Star. An honorary degree, what a joke. Save it for someone who cares. What has he done so great to desevre one .What in the world could he possibly have to say to inspire to new graduates. He can't speak off the cuff, always needs the teleprompterand, only says what he thinks people want to hear. The man lies to one group only to pacify another. Obama has cost the taxpayers enough for security with his hundreds of bodyguards, new monster SUV, hey Barack how many mpg do you get!

    April 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Greg in MN

    I think that Arizoina is still a little miffed their home town candidate didn't win.

    April 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Linda from Minnesota

    Small minded, intolerance. President Obama respects their point of view, they don't respect his. This country will never come together as long as intolerance is rampant.

    April 10, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  19. Steve Hopper

    Oh Golly Gosh... I'm pretty sure this will devastate the leader of the free world who has served the nation as a Senator following degrees from COLUMBIA and HARVARD... yes, yes, his life will not be complete with an honorary slip of paper from the Sun Devils. A university whose greatest known accomplishment is having stunningly hot and frisky Coeds. Poor guy.

    April 10, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. KLinNE

    This is definitely a snub of President Obama. Barry Goldwater received an honorary degree after only one term in the Senate? Obama has been in the Senate, and now is the President. What more does he have to do to be equal to Barry Goldwater? I can bet that they have given honorary degrees to people who have accomplished less. Is it standard to not award an honorary degree to the commencement speaker, or just when your home state boy loses to the speaker?

    April 10, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  21. Lisa M.

    Araziona State looks foolish on this one. Not unexpected I must say.

    April 10, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  22. Robert

    Congrats, ASU. You just made yourself the laughing stock of the commencement season.

    Getting elected President of United States seems like a pretty impressive achievement considering only 44 people have held that office over the past 220 years. But I guess that's not good enough for a school that awards academic degrees in things like "tourism."

    April 10, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. Rob

    Nice how the author of this story tries to find some evidence of racism by bringing up O'Connor and Goldwater. True, Obama did 'serve' one term as a US Senator, of course he wasn't there for most of it, but oh well. I guess ASU doesn't look at the fact that this man has been propped up to god status, was handpicked by the media, as a result of either their stupidity and/or guilt, and despite the fact that he reads well off the teleprompter he hasn't done anything truly helpful for America as qualifications to get an honorary degree. What, you mean the fact that he is negotiating with thugs is not a sign of his greatness.

    Looks like ASU better prepare for a bunch of reporters doing 'in depth' stories of their racism. Guess there's gonna be a few DNC sponsored billboards there as well.

    April 10, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. the queen of Zenobia.

    who cares. he is not doing it for the award!!, they can give it to Rush Linbaugh.

    April 10, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  25. Jeff W.

    All Arizona State University has done is put the university on the map as a place educated individuals should avoid. Can you imagine? We have a history-in-the-making president, one of the most significant African Americans in American history and these bozos take this political stance? If I attended Arizona State I would be mortified and ashamed. Hey, perhaps Sarah Palin is available?

    April 10, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
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