Rice questionable choice for speaker
Editorial | Politicians too controversial to give commencement addresses
Last week, the Board of Governors announced that this year’s commencement speaker will be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She will be receiving a privately raised $35,000 honorarium from the University’s foundation and an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree.
First of all, it’s awesome that Rutgers is getting a woman of such high status and with such an impressive career background to come as a speaker. It says a lot about the prestige of our University. Rice was the first black woman in her position, and as someone who was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama in the racially divided 1960s, she overcame a lot of discrimination and adversity to reach her position.
It’s great that the University is upholding its values of diversity. Rutgers is known to be a generally liberal school and often invites speakers in line with those particular political and social stances, so we applaud them for branching out and inviting a Republican speaker.
But Rice is a former politician, and we can’t really ignore her controversial career. Do the positive aspects of her personal accomplishments really outweigh the destruction of war she contributed to during her political career? She was a major proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has been arguably the worst and most destructive decision in the history of U.S. foreign policy.
In 2005, Princeton University students held a protest when she came to its campus to give a keynote address. A third of the faculty at Boston College signed a letter against having her deliver the commencement address in 2006, and hundreds of students protested her involvement in the Iraq war during the speech itself. We’re not saying we all need to up and protest having her here, but it’s definitely not something that we’re 100 percent comfortable with.
The notable strides Rice has made to such a high and respected ranking on an international level is commendable, and we think she deserves recognition for that — and of course, her commencement speech will not be about her foreign policy or political standpoints. But the fact is that her entire career revolved around politics — it is a major part of who she is and what she’s recognized for.
An honorary Doctorate of Laws degree, according to a University website, is meant “to acknowledge worthy individuals of national and international acclaim whose accomplishments support the ideals of the university and serve as an example for our students, alumni, and society.” Given the very controversial policies and political decisions Rice is responsible for, we don’t feel that this kind of award is appropriate. In fact, we don’t think that it’s appropriate for any politician. Most of their lives are dedicated to policymaking, and as we all know, the world of politics is a cold one. Politicians can be respected for their hard work, but there are very few that are considered inspirational and praiseworthy by a majority.
The point is, we just don’t feel comfortable having politicians as commencement speakers at all. A commencement speaker is meant to be someone who has made some extraordinary and meaningful accomplishments in their lives to inspire a generation of college graduates. Rice probably has a lot of advice on perseverance, dedication and hard work that she can offer to this year’s graduating class, but what she chose to do with those qualities is certainly questionable to us.