White House

President Trump as a university commencement speaker? Not so much

President Trump has only announced plans to address Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. during the school’s commencement ceremony.

President Trump has only announced plans to address Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. during the school’s commencement ceremony.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. colleges and universities appear to be declining their traditional practice of inviting the sitting president to deliver commencement speeches.

So far this year President Trump has only announced plans to address Liberty University, an evangelical institution in Lynchburg, Va., according to The College Fix.

That’s a contrast to his predecessor’s experience. By the end of March 2009, the first year Barack Obama was in office, he had already announced that he would be the commencement speaker at three prominent universities, University of Notre Dame, Arizona State University and the United States Naval Academy.

During his two terms in office, Obama gave a total of 24 commencement addresses, according to FiveThirtyEight. He spoke at a wide range of schools that included public and private institutions, historically black colleges and universities and multiple service academies.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about how many speaking invitations Trump has received or intends to accept.

American academia is overwhelmingly opposed to Trump and his policies, with many university leaders having spoken out frequently against Trump’s immigration policies.

Harvard University President Drew Faust, in a January statement, affirmed the institution’s commitment to its international affiliates, calling them vital.

“Nearly half of the deans of Harvard’s schools are immigrants — from India, China, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Iran,” Faust wrote in an email to the university, according to the Harvard Crimson. “Benefiting from the talents and energy, the knowledge and ideas of people from nations around the globe is not just a vital interest of the University; it long has been, and it fully remains, a vital interest of our nation.”

Michael Drake, president of Ohio State University, said in an email to students that the school is “committed to protecting the information of all of our students, regardless of immigration status” and that “undocumented students are entitled to all of the rights and privileges of other students at Ohio State.”

Even students at Liberty University, a prominent evangelical school that has hosted multiple presidential candidates throughout the campaign, are unhappy Trump will speak at their commencement.

“It’s disappointing,” Dustin Wahl, a junior who helped gather about 2,000 student signatures on an anti-Trump petition after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out in October, said to the Washington Post.

“I think a commencement speaker is supposed to be someone students can look up to and respect and aspire to be like one day. And I don’t think we live in a world right now where the president of the United States fits that criteria.”

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