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Democrats outnumber Republican graduation speakers: College Fix analysis


ANALYSIS: Few right-leaning speakers found among this spring’s commencement ceremonies

Attendees at graduation ceremonies this spring for an Ivy League, Southeastern Conference or Big Ten university are far more likely to hear a liberal or Democratic speaker than a conservative or Republican one, according to an analysis conducted by The College Fix.

At most there are only three Republican or right-leaning speakers, while there are 19 Democratic or liberal-leaning speakers, the analysis found.

The Fix looked at the three conferences that cover schools in the South, East Coast and Midwest. The review only included speakers at either the main ceremony or the undergraduate one. The Fix used past statements, news stories and political donations to establish the views of speakers.

Among the few right-leaning speakers is Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum. The former political appointee of both President George W. Bush and President Donald Trump is speaking at his own institution.

Another potential Republican speaker is Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines, who is speaking at Auburn University’s ceremony. He was reportedly recruited in 1998 by Republican leaders to challenge a Democratic state senator.

One other possible Republican is University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green, who is speaking at the flagship Lincoln campus ceremony. However, Green has clashed with Republican Gov. Peter Ricketts over the university’s “anti-racism” plan. The only source for Green being a Republican is an uncited claim by Wikipedia for his profile.

Democratic and liberal speakers otherwise dominate the main stage, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Barack Obama, and longtime federal bureaucrat and COVID lockdown supporter Anthony Fauci. The University of Wisconsin-Madison chose Holder to speak, while Fauci was the keynote for Michigan State University’s commencement.

In a recently released PBS clip, Fauci can be heard fretting about low COVID vaccination rates in Republican states, which he blamed on politics. He said conservatives “don’t like being told what to do” and “we need to break that” in comments to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

MORE: ‘Get married and start a family,’ speaker tells Georgia Tech grads

Other Big Ten campuses hosted or will host liberals and Democrats.

Celebrity and Rutgers University speaker Sheryl Lee Ralph reportedly declined an offer to work for President Donald Trump’s administration, as she disagreed with his politics. Illinois’ liberal Gov. J.B. Pritzker will speak at Northwestern University’s graduation ceremony, which has received massive donations from the Pritzker family.

Other liberal graduation speakers include President Joe Biden’s Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the University of Missouri, CEO and Democratic donor Stephanie Hickman at the University of Mississippi, and actor Tom Hanks at Harvard University.

Some universities did not have a main commencement speaker listed on their website or they listed a student speaker. The Fix looked multiple times to find graduation speakers and also reached out to universities to find out more about the ceremonies.

The Fix could not find commencement speakers for Dartmouth College, the University of Iowa, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University, the University of South Carolina, Louisiana State University and the University of Arkansas. Brown University told The Fix it would have a student speaker as per its custom.

Four of the speakers did not have clear political leanings.

The absence of Republicans on the main stage at major universities this year is nothing new.

The Washington Examiner reported in 2022 that only three of the top 100 universities in America hosted a Republican or right-leaning commencement speaker.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke at Virginia Tech University while outspoken Christian and former college football star Tim Tebow spoke at his alma mater University of Florida. Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at Boston College.

Young America’s Foundation also reported only one Republican was chosen as commencement speaker in 2020 out of the top 100 schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated to note that Brown University had informed The Fix that it would have a student speaker.

MORE: Ketanji Jackson claps for assault rifles ban at Harvard commencement

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About the Author
Marshelle Paulino -- Franciscan University of Steubenville