College Commencements Still Dominated By Liberals

By Matt Pyeatt | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - A survey using U.S. News & World Report's top 50 colleges and universities shows that institutions across the nation "overwhelmingly choose liberal speakers for commencement exercises."

Young America's Foundation (YAF) released its study Monday and found that the list of the nation's commencement speakers leans heavily to the left. The report also shows that schools not listed in the top 50 colleges and universities also lack representation from conservatives at commencement.

"For the ninth consecutive year, our most prestigious schools excluded scholars such as Milton Friedman, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Thomas Sowell for the likes of left-wing activists Morris Dees, Lani Guinier, Madeline Albright and Whoopi Goldberg," Ron Robinson, president of YAF, said. "College administrators are using commencement ceremonies to send their students off with one more predictable leftist lecture."

Some examples of speakers at America's top institutions include:

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill -- U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.)
Northwestern University -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
University of Washington -- Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeline Albright
Harvard University -- former Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Moynihan
Gettysburg College -- former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell
Grinnell College -- Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich

Rick Parsons, program officer for YAF, said, "it is definitely not a new problem."

"We have been documenting liberal domination of commencement ceremonies for the past nine years," Parsons said.

Parsons said the number of liberal commencement speakers continues to grow at the exclusion of conservatives.

"Last year, even though Bush was in office, there were still many Clinton administration officials speaking at commencements. The universities, I guess, didn't realize that the administration had changed," Parsons said.

Parsons said the inclusion of media and entertainment personalities, as well as politicians, also provides liberal content for commencement speeches. Speakers from this area include:

Rice University -- Bill Cosby
Wellesley College -- Whoopi Goldberg
Brandeis University -- Ted Koppel
Union College (N.Y.) -- CNN's Jeff Greenfield

Chuck Loebakka, director of university relations at Northwestern University, which hosted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said his university selects speakers from the list of those receiving honorary degrees.

"The speaker of commencement here is always one of the people who is receiving an honorary degree. That is the first step ... I don't know how other schools do it, but that is how it is done here."

Loebbaka would not comment on whether or how frequently conservative speakers were considered for honorary degrees or the honor of speaking at commencement ceremonies.

Mike McFarland, director of media relations at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, explained the criteria used to select commencement speakers. "Factors would include input from leadership of the senior class among the students and ties to the university," he said.

McFarland said that was the case for this year's speaker, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.)

"There is certainly a tradition that includes selection of Carolina alumni, who include Sen. Edwards, who is a graduate of the School of Law at UNC, Chapel Hill. Last year's speaker was Stuart Scott of ESPN, another Carolina alum," McFarland said.

Catholic universities and colleges are also being criticized for the selection of their commencement speakers.

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, called the decisions by the Catholic schools "scandalous."

"Despite the U.S. bishops' clear call for reform of Catholic higher education, it seems that a significant minority of Catholic college leaders simply aren't listening," Reilly said. "Several of this year's speakers and awardees are inappropriate and their presence at Catholic institutions is scandalous."

The Cardinal Newman Society notes that Boston College's commencement speaker was Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, chairwoman of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The MacArthur Foundation, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, is a leading contributor to radical and anti-Catholic organizations advocating abortion, contraception and population control.

According to its website, the MacArthur Foundation is "a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition."

The Cardinal Newman Society also noted that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams will speak Monday at Georgetown Law School's Commencement even though both are "public advocates of abortion rights and homosexual rights, and therefore inappropriate despite their commendable leadership on September 11."

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