It is graduation season, and as such, many families are attending college commencement ceremonies. Some schools hire prominent or celebrity commencement speakers, while others keep the ceremony in-house with Chancellors and school presidents doing the honors.
At the commencement of University of California, Berkeley recently, Chancellor Carol T. Christ delivered the commencement speech, along with barbs and jabs at President Donald Trump, according to several parents who attended the graduation ceremony at Memorial Stadium.
These parents spoke to the California Globe on condition of anonymity.
After waiting in line for more than one hour to get through the security screening at Memorial Stadium at Cal Berkeley graduation, the parents said the procession of graduates was already beginning. Soon after, someone ordered all of the gates opened, thwarting their security efforts.
Once inside, following a ceremony honoring the Native-American land the campus sits on, three graduating students of the Class of 2019 sang the National Anthem. “There wasn’t a flag to be seen anywhere,” one of the parents said. “We looked everywhere for a flag and couldn’t find one.” One parent said a flag appeared for about 10-seconds on the Jumbotron screens at either end of the field.
Next up was Chancellor Christ’s speech. “She went on a rant and took several digs at the President,” a parent said. Shortly thereafter, the parents received a text message from their graduating student, which said, “You hear that bullshit our chancellor is spewing?”
Chancellor Carol T. Christ: “Your class saw the rise of the strongest woman candidate for President that the U.S. has ever known, ultimately delivered a stunning defeat in an election that upended American politics. You were witness to the most pitched political battles in decades, over taxes, the economy, Supreme Court nominees, election meddling, trade deals and a border wall. And even saw the government sputter to a halt in the longest shutdown in our country’s history.”
“You spend your days in study, at an institution committed to knowledge, amidst a climate in which alternative facts became acceptable in public discourse, and ‘post-truth’ was the Oxford Dictionary word of the year.”
“As the Black Lives Matter challenged institutional racism in law enforcement. And as the #MeToo movement toppled abusive men in positions of power, and looked to right historical wrongs.”
“You also saw disdain for immigrants and refugees take hold here and around the world as fear and hatred of ‘the other’ became a dominant theme in many countries.”
“I don’t think a publicly-funded university should do this,” one parent said. “Especially in Memorial Stadium. She was making a mockery of the President and the country.” Memorial Stadium at University of California, Berkeley was funded from public contributions, and named in honor of the men who served in World War I.
“The chancellor used her speech as a political platform,” one parent said. “I was there to support the kids and their efforts — not to have to hear someone drone on about politics.”
And then the parents said they and their graduates left the ceremony early, “out of disgust.”
“College graduation should not be about a political movement on either side,” a parent said.
The parents also told about a part of the Berkeley ceremony in which a professor was awarded a diploma because he had refused to accept his Berkeley diploma in 1974, when Ronald Reagan was Governor of California. He didn’t want Reagan’s signature on his diploma, so he refused it. He was presented with a 2019 diploma replete with current Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.
One of the parents said in contrast, their family attended graduation ceremonies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “It was dramatically different,” the parent said. “Both the California flag and the United States flag were prominently displayed, and not one political statement was made.”
They said the speaker was a CalPoly admissions director, who spoke for only 10 minutes, and talked about the growth and transformation of the graduating class of 2019. “Then the school President spoke briefly, and it was on to the kids.”