The Young America's Foundation has published an interesting study on the 2010 commencement speakers at the top 100 universities in America, according to the report issued by U.S. News and World Report. Not surprisingly, the list of speakers shows a lopsided bias favoring liberal speakers. Our work at the Center for Academic Freedom demonstrates that the prevailing liberal-secularist orthodoxy at American universities has sought to promote its ideals and silence voices who think differently. Their choice of commencement speakers reinforces their ideas. Here are a few highlights from the YAF report:
- Going down the list of speakers at the top 100 universities, you have to get to #64, Texas A & M for the first identifiable conservative speaker, General David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq. The only other conservative speakers I could identify who spoke at the top 100 universities was Curt Schilling (former major league pitcher and Republican activist) at #70 Worchester Polytechnic Institute, and Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia, who spoke at #75 Virginia Tech. There may have been a few other conservatives that I did not catch, but there weren't many. That's three clearly identifiable conservatives out of 100 commencement speakers.
- In stark contrast, the number of identifiable liberals and leftists jumps off the page. Those speakers include former President Bill Clinton (#3 Yale), NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (#14 Johns Hopkins University), feminist leader Eleanor Smeal (Rutgers #55), actor Alex Baldwin (#32 New York University), California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger (#17 Emory), Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy (#55 University of Maryland), liberal author John Grisham (#29 University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and others.
- Speakers from the media were uniformly liberal. None of the top 100 universities invited a media personality such as the well-credentialed and very successful radio host Laura Ingraham (she graduated from Darmouth and University of Virginia Law School and clerked for Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court). Instead, graduates heard speeches by CNN's Christiane Amanpour (#1 Harvard Class Day speaker), CBS' Katie Couric ( #41 Case Western Reserve ), CNN's Anderson Cooper (#50 Tulane), CBS' Bob Schieffer (#23 Georgetown School of Continuing Studies) NBC's Brian Williams (#20 Notre Dame) and PBS' Charlie Rose (#91 North Carolina State University). One media speaker I would have wanted to hear was the Food Channel's Alton Brown (#60 University of Georgia).
- Obama Administration officials spoke at 10 commencements in 2010 alone, while Bush Administration officials spoke on 14 times at commencements during the entire eight years of President Bush's tenure in office. The officials included President Obama (#27 University of Michigan), Attorney General Eric Holder (#56 Boston University) and Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (#83 American University). First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at #53 George Washington University.
- Retired Supreme Court justice David Souter spoke at Harvard's commencement, which may be explained by the fact that he is a Harvard graduate. However, Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito did not speak at any graduation ceremonies this year.
It would have been more encouraging if the survey of the top 100 universities showed a wider range of intellectual diversity, and not such a lopsided tilt towards liberalism. But the prevailing orthodoxy at universities is leftist and secularist, and, the commencement speakers show that. As one ancient thinker once observed, "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
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