Former Bush administration official and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was slated to deliver the commencement address at Rutgers University on May 18. But due to student protests and sit-ins accusing her of war crimes -- and supporting U.S. military involvement in Iraq -- Rice decided to bow out. She made the announcement public today on her Facebook page, which was first reported by National Review Online.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time,” she wrote. “I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America's belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But that is not what is at issue here. As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as it's [sic] former Provost and Chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way. Good luck to the graduates and congratulations to the families, friends and loved ones who will gather to honor them.”
To his credit, the president of Rutgers University, Bob Barchi, refused to rescind her invitation, despite the fact that the Rutgers faculty passed a measure to do just that. Rice made her decision voluntarily.
“While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree,” President Barchi wrote in a statement, “we respect her decision not to participate in the upcoming Rutgers University commencement, which she clearly articulated in her statement this morning.”
As of this writing, her replacement has not yet been announced.