Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received a chilly greeting from graduating students at Bethune-Cookman University earlier today.

While giving the commencement keynote address, graduating students booed and turned their backs on DeVos.

So loud was the booing that university president Edison Jackson interrupted DeVos, asking students to hear her out.

From the Washington Post:

Many students and alumni had objected to having DeVos as speaker in part because they said the outreach by President Trump and the education secretary to historically black schools is an empty gesture. But the president of the university defended her work as a philanthropist and her commitment to education.

Graduates came into the auditorium smiling, many with flowers and other decorations plastered on their mortar boards, and listened to the ceremony politely, until university President Edison Jackson introduced Omarosa Manigault, an adviser to Trump. Students started booing. Jackson stopped, then said: “You don’t know her. You don’t know her story.”

They booed loudly as he introduced DeVos to give her an honorary doctorate as well. When she began speaking, thanking Jackson, the auditorium erupted with boos. DeVos had to raise her voice as she thanked the moms attending the ceremony.

About half the 380 graduates turned their backs on her. Shouts continued as she spoke loudly, saying that one of the hallmarks of higher education and democracy is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom they disagree.

Jackson warned the students. “Choose which way you want to go,” he said sternly as the disruptions continued.

DeVos resumed speaking, pledging the administration’s support to their success. “I am at the table fighting on your behalf,” she said.

When she spoke about how she would later visit the home and gravesite of the school’s founder, civil rights activist and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, some in the crowd could be heard shouting, “No!”

This video shows students turning their backs on DeVos:

Prior to the commencement address, Jackson defended the decision to bring in DeVos saying, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community. If our students are robbed of the opportunity to experience and interact with views that may be different from their own, then they will be tremendously less equipped for the demands of democratic citizenship.”

For his defense of varying ideological sets, the NAACP called for Jackson to be canned. Thankfully, at least one member of the school’s board of trustees called the NAACP out for their ridiculous actions.

According the WaPo, students objected to being used as a “photo-op” for the Trump administration. All politics aside, it’s more than a little sad that the civil rights legacy of those like Mary McLeod Bethune is not a legacy some are comfortable sharing broadly. The lessons learned, the progress made — these are stories every American shares with one another and are not merely lore belonging to a select few.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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