Liberals hold 4:1 edge among 2018 commencement speakers
- Liberal commencement speakers will outnumber conservatives by nearly four-to-one at 50 of the nation’s largest colleges this year.
- The list of liberals includes several major names, including Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Cory Booker. The conservative speakers, meanwhile, are mainly state-level elected officials.
Liberal commencement speakers will outnumber conservatives by nearly four-to-one at 50 of the nation’s largest colleges this year.
Campus Reform catalogued the commencement speakers selected by 50 of the largest public and private four-year colleges in the nation, excluding community colleges and online institutions, and researched the political views of each speaker.
Including schools with multiple speakers, Campus Reform identified 37 speakers with demonstrably liberal leanings, compared to just 10 verified conservatives. Only four speakers could be classified as political moderates, two of whom—Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of the country music group Lady Antebellum—were invited to speak at the same ceremony.
Nine of the schools traditionally select internal speakers, such as a high-ranking administrator or standout graduate, and five other speakers do not have identifiable political leanings. Campus Reform was unable to ascertain the identity of the commencement speakers at Portland State University and California State University, Long Beach despite multiple inquiries.
While only six of the conservative speakers are current or former Republican elected officials, at least 12 of the left-leaning speakers were Democratic or radically progressive politicians.
Among those representing the GOP are Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Purdue University President (and former Indiana Governor) Mitch Daniels, Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss, and Texas Supreme Court Justice James Blacklock.
The roster of Democrats, on the other hand, features even more prominent names, including former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Al Gore, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
Notably, universities known for their liberal leanings, such as New York University, the University of Maryland, and Florida International University, stayed within their comfort zones by selecting uniformly left-leaning speakers. Conservative darling Liberty University, on the other hand, invited perhaps the most prominent liberal on the list: Jimmy Carter.
Many of the speakers were public figures with left-wing affiliations but less overtly political professions, such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellman, Starbucks executive Wanda Herndon, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, and Internet pioneer and Google VP Vincent Cerf.
While some schools told Campus Reform they had recently discontinued the practice of inviting outside commencement speakers, the trend does not seem to be widespread, and the political skew is even more severe among some of the nation’s most elite institutions.
Within the Ivy League, only Columbia University is hosting a politically-neutral commencement speaker this year, while the other seven all invited outspoken liberals.