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Betsy DeVos Booed While Giving Commencement Address at Historically Black University

Betsy DeVos Booed While Giving Commencement Address at Historically Black University

Half the graduating class turned their backs on DeVos, requiring the university president to intervene

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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Props to Jackson. He gets it.

Half his graduates don’t, but he does.

inspectorudy | May 10, 2017 at 4:17 pm

DeVos giving this speech is right up there with religious Americans visiting Iran and NK! What do they expect? She’s lucky she got out physically unscathed.

Pitifully, DeVos has done more for more black kids than Jesse Jac—-son, ever has.

And she’d do a lot more if allowed to.

    Rick in reply to Ragspierre. | May 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    I am close to losing all hope for black Americans. If blacks are forever irate, ever more demanding, and racist, most of America will lose patience with them, and things will become even more dangerous.

What University President Jackson gets is that almost all of his students rely almost entirely upon federal student loans and grants in aid from the Department of Education.

“In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”
– William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism (1959)

I understand that, but bear in mind that is largely a product of the press, which works hard to keep the race divide a festering sore.

Think, when you’re tempted down that road, of the millions of black Americans who are NOT buying into that meme.

You and I can name many with whom we would confidently go to battle, and who we love and admire.

We have many fellow Americans who happen to be black.

    Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | May 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Response to Rick. Dunno how this happens…

    Rick in reply to Ragspierre. | May 10, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    That is correct, but those millions need to get a voice. Whites are being discriminated against now, and they will end up blaming the loud-mouth blacks who are supported by the press.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | May 10, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I had this discussion with a couple of my black students during “Black History Month”. I told them that the first thing they need to realize is that racism is a billion dollar a year industry, lots of money is made keeping the specter of racism alive and would continue to be a big industry as long as there was money to be made.

    Then I told them to listen to the actual words of Dr. King not what someone told them that his words meant, let his words speak to them.

    Thirdly I told them to make their own decisions about people based on their observations not what someone else told them and when they make those decisions ask a simple question, “Would I feel this way if they were (insert race here)?”

    I was very humbled that they respected me enough to come and ask and these kids are very bright so I think they will figure it out.

Jeff w., have you heard about the important work of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), and their recent report on “social justice activism” classroom instruction in K-8 and college?
(Search site for “new civics”)

It wouldn’t surprise me if some student were given extra credit for organizing the “shunning” exercise at graduation.

“While giving the commencement keynote address, graduating students booed and turned their backs on DeVos.”
Why were the graduating students giving the commencment keynote address?

    Geologist in reply to moonmoth. | May 10, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Moonmouth, you are correct that Ms. Kaye made a grammatical error, but I think you understood what she was trying to say. These days, I am trying to focus on the substance and not the grammar. Try it, your levels of frustration might be reduced.

    I want both good grammar and good taste, but perhaps thanks to Winston cigarettes and its advertisers, society no longer cares about grammar.

      Anonamom in reply to Geologist. | May 10, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      I disagree. The woman writes for a living. One would think that she would be able to handle sixth-grade grammar.

      I agree with your statement when applied to commenters, however, as they make no claim to being professional.

And WGAS what the NAACP says or doesn’t say? Incidentally, are we finally that far and enlightened now that we can have a National Association for the Advancement of White People?


Barack Obama built this.

The one that booed should have be ordered out of the hall. They didn’t deserve diplomas if they couldn’t even exercise the most fundamental principle of education — listening.

This is the quality of black colleges on display. How many of the alumni have distinguished themselves??

Not only are these N1666ERs uneducated, they have no manners.

Out of the students who protested Betsy Devos, how many of them could actually identify (accurately) any of her policy positions, actions she has taken in her current job, or in fact, anything about her?

Answer: I’m not sure, but I’m fairly confident the number would be in the low single digits. Yet they will all happily parrot the chants and slogans of the same crowd, which is not the behavior of educated adults who are supposed to be able to make up their own minds based on the evidence before them.