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LETTER: Hold all leaders equally accountable, that includes Obama


To the Editor:

As it has now been known, Barack Obama will be the 2016 commencement speaker on May 15. It is not only unprecedented for a sitting president to speak at a Rutgers commencement, but it is also momentous for him to do so during Rutgers’ 250th year of existence. This is an indication of the importance of Rutgers as an academic institution, something our community should be proud of — the first black president will be speaking at the most diverse university in the nation. However, the greatness of our school derives just as much from its moral character as it does from its academic prowess and cultural make-up, thus as previous politicians invited to speak (Condoleezza Rice in 2014) were held politically accountable by the students and faculty so should the current president.

President Obama in his two terms has accomplished quite a bit, he has stabilized the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, struck the Iran nuclear deal, normalized U.S.-Cuba relations, amongst a list of others. However, the president too has many grievous failures to his name. He did little to heal racial tensions in the country and failed to support the Black Lives Matter movement, he has sidelined immigration reform and instead deported more immigrants than any previous president, he has not closed the Guantanamo Bay detention center as was promised, he has increased the use of Predator drones in Pakistan and Yemen leading to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people in collateral damage further exasperating the local sentiments against the U.S., after his predecessor destroyed Iraq this president abandoned it directly leading to the current chaos of ISIS and, lastly, instead of truly helping the people of the Middle East during the Arab Spring the president chose the failed interventionist-regime changing policies of yore resulting in the complete and utter destruction of Libya and Syria alongside the massacre of hundreds of thousands of its people.

So yes it is immensely significant for the President of the U.S. to speak at the 2016 commencement, but it must not be at the behest of tarnishing our moral credibility. It would be entirely hypocritical if we were to judge those previously invited to speak differently than this time around. We must hold all leaders equally accountable.

Shabbir Abbas is a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies studying religion and conflict.

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