DC Commencement Circuit

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

Happy graduates are about to go off to seek their fortunes in a not-so-friendly job market. But before they can pursue careers in business, writing, science and other fields, they must pass one last indoctrination hurdle: the commencement speech.

“If your university is like the majority of schools in the country, it is a bastion of liberalism. It is more than likely that your university has invited a leftist commencement speaker to have the honor of addressing your graduating class,” Bryan Bernys, National Field Director at the Leadership Institute, recently wrote on www.thecampusright.com.

He suggested that in such cases conservative students could

“create a post card or flyer to hand out to commencement guests” which outlines the speakers’ extreme views,

“get your campus or conservative student paper to write a story exposing the real views” of the speaker, or
“if your campus paper will not cover this story, write a story, editorial, or letter to the editor and submit it to any papers on campus as well as local papers.”

Accuracy in Academia has compiled a list of the commencement speakers at prestigious Washington, D.C. universities this year, lecturers who include Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).


Frankly American

Barney Frank, blamed by some for the credit crisis, will be the commencement speaker this year at the American University School of Public Service and will receive an honorary degree. “The class of 2009 has left an unquestionable legacy of service to AU,” wrote four AU students in a letter to the student paper. “Yet the university, for reasons passing understanding, has seen fit to mark SPA’s commencement into real life with a man, charitably described as a leader, whose poor ideas have led to a terrible disservice to the country.”

Their complaints, and Facebook protest group, were picked up by Politico’s Glenn Thrush.

Other commencement speakers at AU this year include:

Susan Zirinsky, CBS executive producer of 48 Hours and a former employee on CBS News with Dan Rather.

Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Gary Cohn, President of Goldman Sachs.

Seth Waxman, a lawyer at WilmerHale. He recently successfully represented 37 plaintiffs from Guantanamo Bay in the Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush.

John Prendergast, a former Clinton employee and a Co-Chair of the ENOUGH Project, which is run through the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress.


“Nonpartisanship” in Practice:

George Washington University has announced that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will be this year’s commencement speaker. “Emanuel was selected as President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff two days after the historic election,” states the GWU press release. “He was first elected to Congress in 2002 and led the Democratic party’s effort to successfully capture the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2006 elections as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He most recently served as chairman of the Democratic Caucus.”

At the time of his appointment, Emanuel was described as a fierce partisan, and some in the mainstream media questioned how “post-partisan” President <Barack Obama could hire a profane firebrand as the gatekeeper to the White House.

“But there’s the matter of his temperament—or, as Mr. Emanuel says, ‘I swear a lot.’ He also yells a lot, and in his sentences his favorite expletive can serve as subject, verb or adjective when he is facing down either recalcitrant Democrats or Republican opponents,” wrote Jackie Calmes for the New York Times just one day after the election.

“The Illinois congressman, after all, is best known as something of a Democratic political assassin,” wrote Naftali Bendavid for the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 6, 2008.

Neither news organization is particularly conservative.


Case We Can Believe In

The commencement speaker for George Mason University is Steve Case, founder of America Online (AOL) and CEO of Revolution. According to its website, one “defining aspect” of Revolution “is its commitment to balance—between work and play, between for-profit and non-profit activities, between success-at-all-costs and understanding that our environment and our spirit should never be compromised.”

Steve Case also established The Case Foundation, which lists among its “big ideas we’re currently supporting

Change Begins with Me, “a year-long effort to build upon the unprecedented desire of individuals to see and create change on the tail of the historic election of President Barack Obama.” The website states, “Like President Obama, we believe ‘change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.’”

Social Citizens, an online organizing beta which “explores the potential impact of individuals who are combining their use of digital tools and people power to make change in their communities and around the globe,” and

the U.S.-Palestinian Project.

In addition, Professor Paul Strossmann will receive the Doctorate of Humane Letters honorary degree from GMU.


Visualize U

This commencement George Mason University will be awarding Donald and Nancy de Laski the Mason Medal for their $10 million contribution to establish the University’s Center for Consciousness and Transformation (CCT). Housed within the New Century College at GMU, CCT’s first undergraduate class borders on the bizarre.

Taught by Mark Thurston, the Fall course “NCLC 375: Consciousness, Meaning, and Life Purpose” devotes the seventh week to “Near-death Experiences; and Altered States of Time.”

“Included in the course are the theory and practice of mindfulness and meditation; finding meaning in dreams; the stress-reduction and creativity-enhancement effects of visualization; and, traditions of vision-questing about personal meaning and life purpose,” states the syllabus.


Never-Ending Campaigns

Gwen Ifill, author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, will be Howard University’s 2009 commencement speaker. Ifill captured the media spotlight last year when, after being appointed as moderator for the Vice President debates, some questioned that this conflict of interest might compromise her objectivity.

Ifill offered her own interpretation of election media bias at a recent panel. According to the Star Telegram, she said, “‘Intensity’ would be a better word than bias. ‘I have been around people who always say, “What do you think is going to happen next?” They’re so nervous. They’ve counted so much on this presidency. I think sometimes the coverage is being driven by the intensity of the voters.’”


Skeletons in the Closet

Vernon E. Jordan Jr., co-chairman of President Bill Clinton’s 1992 transition team, will be the commencement speaker at the University of the District of Columbia. A long-time friend of former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jordan Jr. gained notoriety from his role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“I want to say to you, absolutely and unequivocally that Ms. Lewinsky told me in no uncertain terms that she did not have a sexual relationship with the president. At no time did I ever say, suggest, or intimate to her that she should lie,” said Jordan Jr. in March 1998, according to a transcript from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Jordan Jr. did however admit to helping find Lewinsky a job at the special behest of the President.

According to Kenneth Starr’s investigation, also known as the Starr Report,

“At some point, according to Mr. Jordan, Ms. Lewinsky asked him about the future of the Clintons’ marriage.(831) Because Ms. Lewinsky seemed “mesmerized” by President Clinton,(832) he “asked her directly had there been any sexual relationship between [her] and the President.”(833) Mr. Jordan explained, “You didn’t have to be Einstein to know that that was a question that had to be asked by me at that particular time, because heretofore this discussion was about a job. The subpoena changed the circumstances.”(834) Ms. Lewinsky said she had not had a sexual relationship with the President.(835)

Ms. Lewinsky testified, however, that at this time she assumed that Mr. Jordan knew “with a wink and a nod that [she] was having a relationship with the President.”(836) She therefore interpreted Mr. Jordan’s questions as “What are you going to say?” rather than “What are the [actual] answers . . .?”(837) When the meeting ended, she “asked [Mr. Jordan] if he would give the President a hug.”(838)”

The UDC will also be awarding African-American artist Edward L. Loper, Sr. with an honorary degree.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.