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Obama not worthy of honorary degree, Arizona State University decides
Rachel Oswald
Published: Friday April 10, 2009


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Though it's tradition to present a college commencement speaker with an honorary degree, in the eyes of one Arizona school, their commencement speaker this year -- President Obama -- has not done anything yet that would merit such an honor.

Arizona State University has announced that it will not award an honorary degree to Obama when he gives the school's commencement speech on May. 13.

“Because President Obama’s body of work is yet to come, it’s inappropriate to recognize him at this time,” said University spokeswoman Sharon Keeler, as reported by the ASU State Press.

Keeler said ASU only awards honorary degrees to “someone who’s really outstanding, who has made outstanding contributions in their field."

"Last spring, the University awarded an honorary degree to James Duderstadt, a professor emeritus of the University of Michigan and an international leader in higher education," wrote the State Press. "In 2006, degrees went to Wu Qidi, vice minister of education of the People’s Republic of China, and Frank H. T. Rhodes, former president of Cornell University."

Angered that an independent academic committee had decided not to award Obama the degree, a local paper, The East Valley Tribune, wrote an editorial pleading with ASU to change its mind.

As the paper pointed out, ASU awarded an honorary degree to Barry Goldwater in 1961, three years before he received the Republican nomination for president and only eight years into his U.S. Senate career.

The Huffington Post's Dawn Teo was also dubious of the ASU logic that Obama has yet to do something "really outstanding."

"Writing two best-sellers? Not outstanding," Teo asks. "Developing one of the largest grassroots organizations in the world? Nothing special. Becoming the first African American President of the United States? Good, but nothing to write home about."

The Washington Independent's Matthew DeLong wonders what a university that used to be Playboy's No. 1 party school in the nation is doing denying Obama a degree on the grounds that he has not yet made "outstanding contributions" in his field.

"Granted, you’ve dropped to No. 17 in 2008, according to the Princeton Review — but does that mean you are now above giving an honorary degree to the president?," DeLong writes. "And I don’t know if you remember, but Arizona had a bit of an image problem just two decades ago, for refusing to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. After that whole kerfuffle, is this the message The Grand Canyon State wishes to send to the rest of the country — that Obama’s election is an achievement unworthy of recognition?"



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