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Democrats, Clinton supporters, Hollywood to dominate this commencement season

Republicans currently control Congress and the White House, but Democrats still own the higher education turf.

An analysis of commencement speakers announced so far at America’s top 100 universities, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, shows that Democratic politicians and outspoken supporters of Hillary Clinton significantly outnumber Republicans.

Three Democratic U.S. senators will address graduates at the prestigious universities. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is the featured speaker at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Illinois’s Tammy Duckworth is slated to speak at George Washington University and Cory Booker of New Jersey will address the University of Pennsylvania’s graduates. No Republican senator is currently lined up at any of the top 100 universities.

Ernest Moniz, energy secretary in the Obama administration, will speak at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, another former Obama administration official, will be Stanford’s commencement speaker.

Two former Democratic governors will also be honored this spring. Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell will speak at the University of Delaware and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University.

Only two Republican politicians are currently scheduled to address graduates at the universities ranked in the top 100 by U.S. News and World Report.

The University of Notre Dame named Vice President Mike Pence as its speaker, and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich will address University of San Diego graduates. Some Notre Dame students expressed disgust about Pence’s scheduled address at the Catholic university.

The number of conservative commencement speakers has dwindled over the years, according to a 2014 report from FiveThirtyEight. Last year, Campus Reform reported liberal speakers outnumbered conservatives 4-to-1 in 2016 at commencements for the best universities.

Multiple Hillary supporters will address graduates

Aside from Democratic politicians, at least seven prominent, well-ranked universities have invited commencement speakers who were public supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who held a fundraiser for Clinton, will speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein, who donated to Clinton’s campaign, is Yale’s “Class Day” speaker.

Former professional tennis player and women’s rights activist Billie Jean King will speak at Northwestern University. King appeared on the campaign trail with Clinton during the presidential campaign. Fred Gray, a lawyer for civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., will speak at Case Western University. Gray was a delegate for Clinton at last year’s Democratic National Convention.

Rapper Pharrell Williams and actor and comedian Will Ferrell will speak at New York University and the University of Southern California, respectively. Williams publicly called for women to vote for Clinton while Ferrell appeared in a pro-Clinton video.

Anne Holton, the wife of Clinton’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, is Princeton’s featured speaker. Holton campaigned for Clinton during the election. Anne Marie-Slaughter, the former director of policy planning at the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state, will speak at Indiana University.

Hollywood and the media reign

Multiple members of Hollywood and the media, two institutions often perceived as having a liberal bias, will address graduates at top universities.

Prominent Hollywood figures speaking at commencements include Ferrell at USC, comedian and actor Maz Jobrani at University of California-Berkeley, Modern Family co-creator Steven Levitan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris at Tufts University. Actor Michael J. Fox will receive an honorary degree from Stony Brook University.

Multiple journalists will also address graduates, including New York Times columnist Frank Bruni at Johns Hopkins University, CNN’s Jake Tapper at Dartmouth College, ESPN’s Kate Fagan at the University of Colorado-Boulder and MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle at Lehigh University.

Trump absent

Noticeably missing from commencement speakers at the top 100 universities is President Donald Trump, who has only announced plans to speak this spring at Liberty University’s commencement.

That’s a disparity from President Barack Obama’s first year in office. In 2009, Obama spoke at Notre Dame, Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Meanwhile, Trump’s general election opponent is currently scheduled to speak at more colleges than him. Hillary Clinton was tapped as the commencement speaker at her alma mater, Wellesley College, and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

MORE: Trump shunned by universities as commencement season nears

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke served as a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting from 2017 to 2018. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.

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