You Haven't Heard Boos Until You've Heard Education Secretary Betsy Devos Get Booed At This College Graduation Speech

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NYTBetsy DeVos went to Bethune-Cookman University on Wednesday, knowing her first commencement address as secretary of education could get ugly at the historically black institute of higher education.

It did — fast.

…Above the jeers, Ms. DeVos delivered the standard exhortation to graduates to live a life of service, with courage and grace in the spirit of their school’s namesake.

It was a message that thousands believed Ms. DeVos — who many contend represents an administration that has shown only superficial knowledge of and support for historically black colleges and universities — was in no position to deliver to the 380 graduates of the school, which was founded by the educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

Critics of Ms. DeVos pointed to missteps from the outset of her tenure: from her office’s misspelling the name of W.E.B. DuBois in an attempted tribute, to a statement she issued calling segregation-era historically black colleges and universities “pioneers of school choice.” The gaffes, coupled with President Trump’s seemingly wavering support for black higher education and a strained relationship with African-Americans, made Ms. DeVos an especially prickly choice.

Say what you want about Betsy Devos.  Take whatever political stance you’d like.  Question her integrity and her qualifications amongst yourselves.  All I will say is this – the BALLS on this lady to A, show up for this speech in the first place and B, stand there and deliver it in the face of this absolute tsunami of boos!   Unreal.  I’m not easily impressed but that was impressive.  A lesser education secretary would have crumbled.  Ducked for cover under the dais or run backstage and let her team of handlers clean up the mess.  Betsy stood there basically sustaining a concussion from the decibel levels of the boos directed at her.   Gutsy.

Seriously I don’t know what the wildest thing about this is – Betsy sticking it out, the thought process of the administrators who thought having this commencement speech was a good idea, or just the sheer volume of the boos.  Toss up between the 3.


In a letter to the community defending the choice of Ms. DeVos, Mr. Jackson wrote, “I am of the belief that it does not benefit our students to suppress voices that we disagree with, or to limit students to only those perspectives that are broadly sanctioned by a specific community.”

Other prominent black leaders also defended the university’s decision to invite Ms. DeVos. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, wrote on Twitter shortly after Ms. DeVos was named speaker, “I believe we should hear Secretary DeVos at @bethunecookman, just as we want her and President Trump to hear the voices of #HBCUs.”