The Politics of Commencement Speakers

The Politics of Commencement Speakers


In 2018, the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) issued its 25th annual commencement-speaker survey which revealed that the nation’s top 100 universities – as rated by U.S. News & World Report – had invited many liberal or leftist ideologues, newsmakers, authors, and entrenched Washington insiders to speak at their graduation ceremonies that year; by contrast, few conservative speakers had been invited. This imbalance represented the continuation of a pattern that already had been well established for many years. Announcing the results of its study, YAF wrote:

The 25th Annual Commencement Speakers Survey from Young America’s Foundation shows the leftist slant at America’s colleges pervades the final lessons given to graduating students as they turn their tassels and collect their diplomas. The small number of conservative speakers (just four this year) is again eclipsed by a number of prominent liberals (45) who were invited by the nation’s top colleges and universities to impart one last skewed lesson.

YAF’s Commencement Speakers Survey scrutinizes the commencement addresses given at the top 100 national universities as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. With 45 liberal speakers imparting progressive ideas and just 4 conservatives addressing graduates, the contrast in this year’s survey is stunning.

Vice President Mike Pence is the most notable and only national conservative figure speaking at any of America’s top colleges. Ambassador Ron Dermer, NBA commentator Ernie Johnson, and Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum are the other three conservatives delivering commencement addresses in 2017.

The Left’s childish reaction to Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement address at Notre Dame proves the pervasion of liberal intolerance. Even when conservatives are given the rare opportunity to address students, leftists won’t even consider an alternative viewpoint. In a tragic irony, the infantile leftists who walked out at Notre Dame proved the exact point he made about the “all-too-common practices” of the Left being “destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge …  wholly outside the American tradition.”

The class of 2017 will hear from [former] Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Cory Booker, Bob Casey, Tammy Duckworth, and Elizabeth Warren who continually spout flawed, debunked, and failed ideas.

Other outspoken liberals including Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Billie Jean King, Ken Burns, Michael Bloomberg, and Sheryl Sandberg will be speaking at some of America’s top-rated schools.

Leftist figures from Hollywood also made the rounds, including Michael J. Fox, S. Epatha Merkerson, Steve Levitan, Nick Offerman, Helen Mirren, Pharrell Williams, and Will Ferrell.

A number of news personalities are slated to speak at commencement exercises this spring, including Frank Bruni (New York Times), Jake Tapper (CNN), Brooke Baldwin(CNN), Christiane Amanpour (CNN), and Stephanie Ruhe (MSNBC). Notably missing from the list of commencement speakers at America’s Top 100 universities are any personalities from the Fox News or Fox Business channels.

The bias against conservatives becomes even more clear when 2017 is compared to the first year of President Obama’s tenure. Apart from Vice President Mike Pence, no members of President Trump’s administration are speaking at top 100 schools this spring. In 2009, 11 commencement addresses were delivered at top 100 schools who fell over themselves to host members of Obama’s campaign and White House teams. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Attorney General Eric Holder, campaign manager David Plouffe, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel joined President Obama and Vice President Biden in pushing their liberal agenda.

This slant against conservative commencement speakers is an unfortunate and alarming trend Young America’s Foundation has documented for the past 24 years….

“YAF provides the intellectual diversity that far too many leftist administrators work to suppress today,” [said Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown]. “America’s top colleges and universities are out of touch with America’s young people, and continue to rob students of the chance to think critically. Instead, these ‘leading’ institutions feed students a never-ending stream of one-sided lessons. That’s not education, it’s indoctrination.”

Additional Resources:

Conservative Voices Once Again Excluded From Commencement Season
June 16, 2020

YAF’s 2018 Commencement Speaker Survey
May 2018

YAF’s 25th Annual Commencement Survey Finds Liberal Domination of Senior Send-Off Continuing
May 22, 2017

At Top 45 Colleges, No Conservatives Invited for Commencement
By Fox News
May 16, 2018

Liberal Graduation Speakers Outnumber Conservatives 12 to 1, Study Finds
By The Washington Times
May 16, 2018

Guess How Many Of Top 50 National Universities Have Conservative Commencement Speakers
By The Daily Wire
May 16, 2018

YAF’s 24th Annual Commencement Speakers Survey Finds 40% More Liberal Speakers Than Conservatives At Top 100 Schools
May 11, 2016

YAF’s Comedy and Tragedy, 2018-2019

Liberals to Outnumber Conservative Graduation Speakers 4-to-1
By Campus Reform
May 5, 2016

Conservatives Not Welcome: Liberal Speakers Dominate College Commencements by Six-to-One
By Jennifer Harper
May 11, 2015

Commencementgate: Liberals Outnumber Conservatives 7-1
By Paul Bedard
May 15, 2012

Commencement Ceremonies at Top 100 Universities Dominated By Obama Officials and Liberal Commentators
By Young America’s Foundation
May 17, 2011

Leftist Ideas and Segregation Dominate Commencement Exercises
By Young America’s Foundation
May 18, 2006

Commencement Bias, 2005 
By The Young America’s Foundation
June 15, 2005

Study of Bias in the Selection of Commencement Speakers at 32 Elite Colleges and Universities
By the Center for the Study of Popular Culture
August 28, 2003

Liberals Dominate Spring Commencement Exercises at Top Universities
By Young America’s Foundation
May 20, 2003

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