GW paper: Duckworth a good choice for 'liberal-leaning' students

George Washington University’s student newspaper believes that liberal-leaning students deserve to hear from someone with a sympathetic viewpoint at Commencement, like Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

This will be the second consecutive year in which a Democratic Senator has delivered the Commencement address, but the editorial argues that it is appropriate for the speaker to "reflect" the "liberal-leaning" political views of GW students.

George Washington University’s student newspaper believes that liberal-leaning students deserve to hear from someone with a sympathetic viewpoint at Commencement.

An editorial published Sunday in The GW Hatchet unabashedly applauds the second consecutive selection of a Democrat senator as commencement speaker, saying Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth fits every one of its criteria.

GW recently announced that Duckworth will deliver the 2017 Commencement address this May, following on the heels of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who was GW’s commencement speaker last year.

“Even though this will be the second year in a row that the Commencement speaker is a Democratic senator, the choice shows that officials understand the GW community and the types of people students want to hear speak,” the editorial states. “Our student body is known to be political, even if not every student wants to be a politician, and we’re a liberal-leaning university. The speaker sending students off into the real world should reflect that.”

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The editorial goes on to predict that Duckworth will be able to “connect with most people in the graduating class,” explaining that her “diverse identity” allows her to identify with a variety of demographics and pointing out that her status as an alumnus will suffice to establish a connection with the remainder of students.

The Hatchet also touts Duckworth’s invitation as an opportunity for GW to receive attention locally and nationally, asserting that “By choosing popular figures as Commencement speakers, GW gets media attention from some news sources, like landing on yearly ‘best of’ lists.”

According to last year’s Commencement Speakers Survey by the Young America’s Foundation, 53 percent of speakers at the top 100 schools nationwide, as designated by US News & World Report, were liberal. Only 14 percent of speakers were identified as conservative, while the rest were ideologically ambiguous.

Duckworth is a first-term Senator and a veteran of the Iraq War, where she lost both of her legs. She later served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and then as an assistant secretary at the national VA, where she was accused of spending over $4 million on artwork and other related items while veterans suffered long wait times.

She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, and defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk last November to become the junior senator from Illinois.

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“While GW is left-leaning, that should not require a monopoly on who gets to speak at Commencement,” Ziyad Azeez, a member of GW College Republicans, told Campus Reform. “I have no problem with Senator Duckworth speaking; I think having a veteran and a prominent Member of Congress fits GW's profile well. Her life experience should be taken as an example of rising to the challenge.”

Even so, Azeez pointed out, “a person who does not have liberal views is just as qualified to send students into the real world at Commencement.”

“As a Republican student, I think Sen. Duckworth served our country in Iraq with honor and distinction,” concurred senior Alec DiFruscia. “However, I feel as though the university fails to invite speakers with a different point of view; rather they use our commencement for potential 2020 Democratic candidates.”

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The Hatchet fails to realize that academia is a place to have your views challenged, not reinforced,” he added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JacksonRichman