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Liberalism Reigns at Commencements

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A survey released June 10 by Young America's Foundation indicates that colleges and universities are using commencement ceremonies to promote leftwing speakers and Democratic Party politicians.

Commenting on the survey, president of Young America's Foundation Ron Robinson explained, "College graduation ceremonies are called 'commencements' because they mark the beginning of post-college life. But in recent years, college administrators are using commencement ceremonies to send their students off with one more predictable leftist lecture. In 1996, commencement exercises are dominated by liberal activists, media personalities, and Clinton Administration officials."

The survey based its sample group on U.S. News and World Report's list of the top 50 national universities. For the fourth consecutive year, Young America's Foundation polled the country's elite schools and found commencement speakers heavily weighted to the left.

Clinton Administration officials, friends of the president, and Democratic Party politicians made up the largest group of people delivering graduation speeches, appearing at over 35% of the nation's top schools.

Over one hundred schools requested Bill Clinton as their commencement speaker, with the President deciding to give three graduation speeches, including two (Penn State and Princeton) in states crucial to his electoral prospects in November.

Administration officials delivering graduation speeches include Vice President Al Gore at MIT, UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright at Brandeis, Treasury Secretary Richard Rubin at Columbia, NIH Director Harold Varmus at Harvard, and National Endowment for the Arts boss Jane Alexander at Washington University. Duke used its commencement to give Alexander a platform to attack "a certain Senator from North Carolina," who happens to be a vocal critic of the NEA and up for re-election this year.

Other Clinton Associates selected to send off the Class of '96 included Clinton's Surgeon General nominee Henry Foster (UC-San Diego), former State Department official Richard Holbrooke (Georgetown), Clinton transition team member Johnetta Cole (Michigan and Emory), Democratic Senators Bill Bradley (University of Washington and Princeton) and Sam Nunn (Wake Forest and Georgia Tech), and Democratic Party activist Robert Kennedy Jr. (Cornell).

College administrators were also eager to roll out the red carpet for media and entertainment personalities.

NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw spoke at the University of Pennsylvania, NYPD Blue producer Steve Bochco spoke at Carnegie Mellon, and Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes spoke at Syracuse. Henry "The Fonz" Winkler was honored at Yale and Robert Redford at Northwestern. Steven Spielberg and Robert De Niro were given honorary degrees at New York University.

Leftist domination of the commencement addresses of 1996 was not an aberration. In the four years since Young America's Foundation first began tracking commencemnt addresses, liberal speakers have dominated, while conservatives have been shunned.

Michigan's four-year line up of commencement speakers includes Hillary Clinton in 1993, liberal cartoonist Cathy Guisewite in 1994, Marian Wright Edelman in 1995, and Johnetta Cole in 1996. Penn honored Hillary Clinton in 1993, Henry Cisneros in 1994, Jane Alexander in 1995, and Tom Brokaw in 1996. Dartmouth featured Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, Bill Clinton, and liberal author David Halberstam.

Despite the new majority in Congress, whose leadership includes several former college professors, the only conservative legislator chosen to address a graduating class at the nation's top schools this year was Rep. Bill Young (Florida). The only other conservatives giving graduation speeches at the most prestigious universities were Justice Antonin Scalia (William and Mary), Dan and Marilyn Quayle (Lehigh), and Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon (Notre Dame).

Criticizing the politicization of graduation day, YAF President Ron Robinson said: "No conservative movement organization leader, free market academic, or conservative religious leader addressed any of the top schools' commencements. Outstanding speakers such as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, Stanford scholar Thomas Sowell, author Tom Clancy, Rev. Billy Graham, John Cardinal O'Connor, General Norman Schwarzkopf, General Colin Powell, media commentators George Will and Rush Limbaugh, and House leaders Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey were passed over for the likes of Johnetta Cole, Robert Redford, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Henry Winkler!"

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