President Bush is one of a small number of conservatives who was invited to speak at commencement ceremonies for university graduates. But his invitation has been met with protest by hundreds at a Baptist liberal-arts college.
More than 200 students and faculty members from Furman University signed a statement earlier this month criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war and environmental issues. Some faculty members have further been excused by the dean from attending graduation ceremonies on May 31.
"Under ordinary circumstances it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the president of the United States. However, these are not ordinary circumstances," said the letter. "Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values."
A group of more than 500 conservative students countered the protestors with a letter of their own, stating their disappointment and shame.
"Count us among the disappointed and embarrassed – disappointed at an administration that acquiesced to irresponsible faculty demands, and embarrassed by a faculty that sacrificed professionalism for publicity," stated the letter, released Monday by Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow.
"Unfortunately, some professors seem intent on turning what should be a celebration of their students' accomplishments into a forum to air their political differences with President Bush. 'We object' sounds open-minded and charmingly contrarian, but not when the 'objection' is entirely unrelated to the president's commencement speech," it added.
Bush isn't the only conservative who hasn't received a warm welcome at commencement ceremonies. U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly also met protests at the University of Georgia's and Washington University's commencements, respectively.
"Isn't it amazing that the Left today can't even consider the possibility of hearing a conservative speak?" posed Jason Mattera of the conservative Young America's Foundation.
Mattera released a report revealing that again, liberals – including Democratic Party officials, leftist activists, and members of the old media – dominate the 2008 commencement speakers list at the nation's top colleges and universities.
This is the 15th year in a row that commencement ceremonies featured a disproportionate number of liberal and conservative speakers, according to Young America's Foundation, which looked at the nation's top 100 colleges and universities based on U.S. News & World Report's ranking.
The foundation noted that prominent conservatives such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich were absent for the list of graduation speakers this year while former president Bill Clinton, New York City Michael Bloomberg, and Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" were invited to address graduates.
"The imbalance revealed by this study seems especially discriminatory at a time when students demonstrate a strong desire to see more conservatives on campus," Mattera said. "Once again, commencements look like another dose of leftist indoctrination rather than a fresh start for the class of 2008."