ABC News reports that former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice has backed out of delivering the commencement address this year at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. A few weeks ago students and some faculty staged a sit-in protesting Rice’s role in the Iraq War.
She released a statement that reads:
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.
I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But that is not what is at issue here. As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as it’s former Provost and Chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.
Good luck to the graduates and congratulations to the families, friends and loved ones who will gather to honor them.”
The school’s board of governors agreed to pay Rice and her national security adviser $35,000 to speak at the graduation ceremony on May 18. The school had also planned to present her with an honorary doctorate degree. But students insisted that Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a part of the Bush administration and was not welcome at their ceremony.
We admit Condoleeza Rice isn’t perfect, but we think bowing out was a classy move. Keep in mind this is same school that defended paying MTV reality star “Snooki” $32,000 for a speaking engagement, $2000 more than they paid Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison to do the commencement that year. Just let that sink in for a moment.