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May 17, 2011 (800) USA-1776, OFFICE

Commencement Ceremonies at Top 100 Universities Dominated By Obama Officials and Liberal Commentators

Ideological Balance Lacking AmongTop Universities’ Selections for Commencement Speakers

Click here to download the survey.


HERNDON, Va. May 18, 2011 -- Young America's Foundation's 18th annual commencement speaker survey has revealed that the nation's top 100 universities, as determined by U.S. News & World Report, have once again chosen to use their commencement ceremonies as platforms to showcase one final effort to indoctrinate a captive audience of students with yet another predictable leftist lecture.

            Last year's results counted only three recognizable conservatives and included a wide array of Obama administration officials. This year's list counts only 13 conservatives out of 51 ideologically identifiable speakers. Seven Obama officials will make their standard high number of appearances – only down two from last year's nine appearances. That's a total of 16 appearances in just two years. Meanwhile, our research indicates that Bush administration officials spoke at the top 100 universities a total of 14 times throughout the entire eight years of his presidency. The imbalance in ideological exposure that students receive at these universities is obvious just in those numbers.

            Obama's White House officials, including Janet Napolitano (secretary of Homeland Security), Kathleen Sebelius (secretary of Health and Human Services), Ray LaHood (secretary of Transportation), Bill Daley (chief of staff), Ray Mabus (secretary of Navy), Robert Gates (secretary of Defense), and Regina M. Benjamin (surgeon general of the United States) have, once again, been welcomed by liberal administrators to speak at top universities.

            Moreover, the expected lineup of liberal entertainment and media personalities, including Tom Hanks at Yale University and Katie Couric at Boston University, will still make their fair share of appearances.  

            This year, the only difference is that several schools look to successful business executives and leaders to inspire and offer guidance to their students, as many graduating seniors have one thing on their minds: jobs. At a time when unemployment is at record highs, particularly for this age group, graduates can better benefit from hearing speakers who have successfully started companies or worked their way to the top. The decision by several schools to invite business executives is a tacit nod to the fact that the same old liberal philosophy that professors spew is not helping students with the reality of finding jobs upon graduation.

            Some of these successful executives, including John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, account for the marginal increase in the number of conservative commencement speakers this year.

            Given the electoral sweep in 2010, it is no surprise that a few conservative officials are slotted to give commencement remarks this year, including Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell at the University of Virginia, Speaker of the House John Boehner at the Ohio State University, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson at the University of Texas - Austin.  

            Conservative speakers are still overwhelmingly in the minority, and even when they are invited, they are met with disdain by the Left on campus. The choice of Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, who is set to address the University of Michigan where he is a triple alumni (B.A., J.D., and M.B.A.), has come under attack by leftists on campus. They claim the decision to invite an elected official to speak is divisive, even though they had no such complaints when President Obama and former President Clinton spoke in 2010 and 2007, respectively.

            Commenting on this year's survey, commencement speaker researcher and recent graduate of UC Berkeley Jiesi Zhao remarked, "After four years of indoctrinating students with liberal ideologies in the classroom, most of our nation's top universities choose to do no different at graduation."

            Precious few schools are looking to successful entrepreneurs and business leaders to offer advice to graduating seniors. There is no doubt that the permeating liberal bias of administrators once again shines through in this year's selection of commencement speakers.

Young America’s Foundation’s Executive Summary of the Data on 2011 Commencement Speakers.

            Young America’s Foundation’s 18th annual commencement speaker survey proves that liberal officials and commentators dominate the list of speakers headlining commencement ceremonies this year.

            Specifically, Young America’s Foundation found that out of 51 speakers who can clearly be identified as either liberal or conservative, only 13 were conservative. A continuation of the bias evident over the past few decades, and specifically of last year’s results of only three identifiable conservatives. Even among the short list of speakers invited who are considered to be conservative by some, several of them, like David Brooks of the New York Times, have defended Obama’s liberal agenda – raising doubt as to whether or not they are truly conservative. There remains a wide gap between the number of conservative officials and commentators welcomed on campus as compared to their liberal counterparts.

            While President Bill Clinton is on the list, President George W. Bush is not. Similarly, while Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Katie Couric of CBS, Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Conan O’Brien of TBS, and Wolf Blitzer and Larry King of CNN are set to give remarks, journalists and reporters including Fox News Hosts Bret Baier and Sean Hannity, and best-selling authors Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are left  out. Furthermore, boisterous leftist celebrities, including Tom Hanks and Billie Jean King, are welcomed onto campus while conservative celebrities, such as Ben Stein and Chuck Norris, receive no attention from the top 100 schools.

            These and other leaders in the Conservative Movement have all garnered standing-room-only crowds at our nations’ universities throughout the past few years and would undoubtedly impart insightful and worthwhile advice to the class of 2011.

The Speeches

            Already, the graduates of 2011 have had to endure radical, agenda-pushing left-wing rhetoric at commencement ceremonies. Preaching her love of big government and subsequently downsizing the goals of many students who wish to enter and remain in private-sector jobs, Janet Napolitano urged Emory Universitygraduates that, “no matter what career path you begin on, you should be able to spend a couple of years in government applying your particular talents and expertise to a public challenge. This is a vision of public service that [the Obama administration is] trying to promote”. Espousing leftist ideologies, furthermore, is not a new occurrence at commencements.  In 2007, Bill Clinton pointed out in his commencement speech at the University of Michigan that legendary football coach Bo Schembechler was a conservative (who had recently passed) and contemplated “whether it is possible still to switch parties in the afterlife”. Also ramming left wing ideology down students’ throats at graduation, Katie Couric pointed out the great achievements of women like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, First Lady Michelle Obama, and secretary of state Hillary Clinton while failing to mention any successful conservative women, such as Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin, to Princeton University’s class of 2009. She also went on to say that conservatives are “still looking for an effective spokesman, and the only person they can find so far is Rush Limbaugh....and he won't take the job because he doesn't want to give up his prescription plan”. These and other leftists are invited to indoctrinate students at our nation’s top ranked universities every single year, and their obviously biased views will no doubt be imposed upon the graduating class yet again this year. As more commencements take place in the next few weeks, more liberal ideology will be unleashed on captive audiences of graduating students.


            Once again, the number of liberal officials and commentators who are set to give graduation remarks is overwhelmingly disproportionate, and the lack of representation by their conservative peers highlights the stark ideological imbalance on today’s campuses.

 For further information or to schedule an interview with Young America’s Foundation Staff, call Jiesi Zhao at (800) USA-1776


 Young America’s Foundation is an educational organization promoting conservative ideas on our nation’s campuses through lectures, publications, and conferences.  During the last year, the Foundation sponsored more than 600 lectures, including addresses by Governor Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, Ben Stein, and Steve Forbes.  In 1998, Young America’s Foundation saved the Reagan Ranch, and with the Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara, uses it to educate young people about Reagan’s ideas. To learn more, visit


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