Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves to the crowd after delivering his convocation address at Howard University in Washington, Friday, Sept. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Earlier this month the Arizona State University announced that President Obama will speak at its commencement next month. At the same time, they stated that he will not be given the honorary degree which is why most people agree to speak at graduations. Their reason: he has not yet achieved enough to be given this award. After a firestorm of criticism they just announced that ASU will name its most prestigious scholarship for the President "out of the greatest respect for him as an individual and world leader." Still no honorary degree even though he is a world leader!
“I apologize for the confusion surrounding our invitation to President Obama to address ASU students at commencement,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “The entire ASU community has been electrified with excitement since we learned of his participation in our commencement ceremony. We hope that the recent discussion of honorary degrees will not detract from the honor and thrill that ASU – and indeed all of Arizona – is experiencing in anticipation of his visit. I am honored, as are our faculty, staff and students, that President Obama will give his first commencement speech as president of the United States at ASU.”
I looked through their list of past degree recipients. A lot of academics, Native American and Hispanic leaders, at least one Nobel laureate, political leaders such as Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall. One could argue that many of these people achieved a lot in their fields and that President Obama has yet to make a big mark on the world because he hasn't been in office long enough. As an academic person, this is the kind of reasoning a group of pointy heads would make.
However, the biggest problem with such faulty reasoning is one never uses this yardstick by which to measure the President of the United States. He is in a league of his own. He is not a scholar who has written a dozen books like Dickey or led a movement like Caesar Chavez, a politician like the disgraced Henry Cisneros, or a philanthropist like Stewart Mott.
Sounds like the ASU trustees and high level administrators threw this scholarship program together at the last minute. Why did they have to make things worse, like pouring gasoline on an inferno? The inference is that President Obama is not worthy of one of their little stinking honorary degrees (they gave Pearl Bailey one for God's sake) but he is worthy of naming a scholarship for him. Why didn't they name scholarships for some of the folks on their list of degree recipients like Nobel laureate Leland Hartwell?
They should live with their poor decision and stop the let's make nice stuff. Next time don't invite the President of the United States to speak. I can't help wondering if they would have refused to bestow this honor on President George Bush (laugh out loud). If they gave Pearl Bailey one, then surely President Bush was deserving. tsk tsk.