Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State, has decided that she will not give the commencement address at Rutgers University as previously planned. Her decision comes have protests have broken out by some of Rutgers University’s students and faculty over her part in the Iraq War, according to a CBS News report on Saturday. The announcement was official as Rice informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi via a statement on Saturday that she was declining the invitation to speak.
Rice explained in her statement that commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. She went on to say that Rutgers’ invitation for her to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time. Rice, who was former President George W. Bush’s secretary of state and national security advisers, would have been paid $35,000 for giving the commencement address on May 18 at Rutgers.
In response to plans for Rice to speak, some students and faculty members protested. They had sit-ins and said that Rice bore some of the responsibility for the Iraq War as a high-ranking official in President George W. Bush’s administration. Yet, Rice defended her record within her statement to the president of Rutgers. She stated that she was honored to have served the United States and that she had defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. In spite of her defending herself, she has declined the invitation, according to Fox News.
It has been a tough year for women in politics to get an audience at graduation ceremonies. Last month, alterations had to be made for First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at a ceremony in Topeka, Kansas. After the community didn’t want Mrs. Obama disrupting the potential number of seats available to family and friends at the graduation ceremony – while some thought her message at the ceremony would have detracted from honoring the graduates – she was pulled from the ceremony and given a different audience at the same venue.