President Barack Obama delivers an address during the commencement ceremony at Arizona State University yesterday. “Commencement speakers typically are awarded honorary degrees as a sign of respect and appreciation,” notes The Associated Press. “Arizona State officials, however, did not award any such degree this year. ‘[Obama’s] body of work is yet to come. That’s why we’re not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency,’ university spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said after the school’s student newspaper first reported the decision.”
Arizona State University (which is located in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix) refused to give President Barack Obama an honorory degree when he gave the commencement address there yesterday because, university officials stated, he has yet to prove himself.
I wholeheartedly disagree with Obama on at least a few things, such as his assertion that same-sex marriage should be decided by each state (equal human and civil rights should be federally protected, never left up to each state, and I have a real problem with his general wussiness on same-sex issues in general) and his reversal of his decision that his administration would not try to block the release of further images of detainee abuse by the U.S. military (in fact, on the whole torture and detainee civil rights issue, Obama has been too center-right, apparently wishing to avoid being branded as “soft on terrorism”).
And it is true that Obama is the inheritor of the work of many who came before him, including civil rights leaders (some of whom were slain for their cause, like Martin Luther King Jr.) and even including Howard Dean, whose Internet-based political empire Obama more or less inherited; Dean (I admit this even though I supported John Kerry’s campaign from day one) helped to create the wave on which Obama rode into the White House.
It’s also true that Obama has a lot of work still ahead of him, as do all of us Americans who are struggling in the aftermath of the eight long nightmarish years of the rule of the unelected, fascistic Bush regime.
But for Arizona State University officials to assert that Obama hasn’t accomplished enough in order to receive an honorary degree…
Um, let’s see: It’s not all that easy for a black man to become a U.S. senator. Obama did that. He put out two best-selling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. It’s not too easy to put out a single best-selling book and he put out two. Obama, um, became the nation’s first non-white president. And he beat the Clintonista machine in order to do it. Hell, give the man an honorary degree and a medal just for having knocked Billary out of the Democratic presidential primary race!
No, the problem is not that Obama has not accomplished enough thus far.
The problem is that ASU is in the red state of Arizona, land of the McCainosaurus, and Arizona is not accepting of our nation’s first black president (which, again, is enough of an attainment, don’t you think? But apparently the bar is much, much higher for people of color than it is for whitey; usually it would be more than enough that a person is the president of the nation to grant him or her an honorary degree, but even that’s not good enough if the person isn’t white).
I know first hand how hellish Arizona is — I spent the first three decades of my life in the God-forsaken red state, which was loathe and slow to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Notes Wikipedia of this history:
At the White House Rose Garden on Nov. 2, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986….
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) [had] led opposition to the bill and questioned whether King was important enough to receive such an honor…. Reagan was also opposed to the holiday, citing cost concerns. He threatened to veto the King Day bill but recanted after Congress passed it with an overwhelming veto-proof majority (338 to 90 in the House of Representatives and 78 to 22 in the Senate).
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted against the creation of the holiday to honor King, and later defended Arizona Republican Gov. Even Mecham’s rescinding of the state holiday in honor of King [that had been] created by his Democratic predecessor [Bruce Babbitt].
After his opposition grew increasingly untenable, McCain reversed his position, and encouraged his home state of Arizona to recognize the holiday despite opposition from Mecham.
In 1990, Arizonans were given an opportunity to vote to observe an MLK holiday. McCain successfully appealed to former President Ronald Reagan to support the holiday. Prior to that date, New Hampshire and Arizona had not observed the day.
Throughout the 1990s, this was heavily criticized.
Following the failure of the 1990 proposition to recognize the holiday in Arizona, the National Football League moved Super Bowl XXVII from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe [which is part of the ASU campus and is where Obama gave his commencement address yesterday] to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif….
(Arizona since has adopted a state holiday in honor of King, my quick Internet research shows. However, the fact that the Arizona state government refers to the holiday as “Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day” indicates the turbulent history of the MLK holiday in the red state that just did not want to honor King. [Lest you think that I pick only on Arizona, Wikipedia notes that it was not until 2000 that all 50 states honored the MLK holiday.])
So you can see from Arizona’s political history and political climate why ASU didn’t want to give President Obama an honorary degree. It certainly wasn’t because he is unaccomplished.
Those associated with ASU call themselves the “Sun Devils.” How about the “Blue-Eyed Devils” instead?