Liberal Commencement Speakers Outnumber Conservatives By More Than 12-to-1

Based on Young America’s Foundation’s methodology,* of the top 100 schools in the country, only three commencement speakers are conservative, whereas 38 are liberal.

Of the top 45 schools in the country, not a single institution invited a conservative to deliver this year’s commencement address.

College and university administrators are tireless in their attempts to indoctrinate students with flawed leftist ideas. Higher education’s anti-conservative bias is clear in the courses offered (as seen in YAF’s annual Comedy & Tragedy report), the activities and speakers sponsored for officially sanctioned events, and their unequal treatment of students. Young America’s Foundation’s 26th annual Commencement Speaker Survey shows this anti-conservative bias permeates even the final lessons given to students at their commencement ceremonies.

In a report on this spring’s commencement speakers, the Associated Press attempted to latch on to the “#MeToo” movement but inadvertently proved the anti-conservative bias Young America’s Foundation has pointed to with this survey over the last quarter-century. With the headline, “Amid #MeToo, more colleges host women as graduation speakers,” AP failed to note that “the podium is all hers” unless she’s conservative.

Of the top 100 schools, Nikki Haley* is the only nationally-known conservative woman delivering a commencement address. Again, the Left is masquerading as an advocate for women while suppressing the voices of conservative women. Noted intellectuals such as Christina Hoff Sommers, public officials including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or respected media figures such as Dana Perino or Harris Faulkner would deliver incredible commencement addresses. But because they don’t fit the Left’s rigid mold, they’re not given the same platform afforded to liberal shills.

Another noteworthy snub revealed in this year’s survey is the lack of conservative lawmakers—at any level—save for Senator Tim Scott** who’s also delivering an address at Clemson. With power in both houses of Congress and control of a majority of state legislatures, conservative lawmakers would be in demand to share their vision if not for campus leftists who seek to ostracize the Conservative Movement and all who advocate for freedom’s principles. Instead, schools are rolling out the red carpet for leftists’ divisive rhetoric and debunked ideas.

“These liberal commencement addresses aren’t inspiring, they’re divisive. Telling students they’re helpless victims, that there’s no amount of hard work that can help them overcome the social justice ills of our society sets graduates up for misery, not success,” said Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown. “America’s top institutions continue to be abandoned as sites of higher education and turned into indoctrination centers. As if four years of being fed leftist pablum wasn’t enough, too many schools shove their students out the door with one last liberal lesson.”

Congressman John Lewis, who claims President Trump is not a “legitimate” President, is speaking at several schools in the top 100 list, while New York University is welcoming Canadian Prime Minister and “proud feminist” Justin Trudeau. To refresh your memory, Trudeau bizarrely chastised a woman for using the term “mankind,” instructing her to use “peoplekind” instead. Senator Mark Warner, who recently changed his mind on guns and is now calling for America to “change our positions” on the Second Amendment, landed the keynote slot at the College of William & Mary. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a noted flip-flopping opportunist himself, is speaking at Virginia Tech. Vice President Al “Our planet has a fever” Gore is speaking at the University of Maryland–College Park.

Liberal pop culture icons are again a force to be reckoned with on the commencement circuit, with noted figures including Sterling K. Brown, Mindy Kaling, M. Night Shyamalan, and Mayim Bialek. Also among the darlings of the Left are liberal business leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Cook. 

The conservatives counted in YAF’s 2018 Commencement Speaker Survey are Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte; Harold Korell, former CEO of Southwestern Energy Co.; and Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations.


*Young America’s Foundation pulls data for spring commencement exercises at the top 100 national universities in America, as ranked by the US News & World Report. Schools with multiple commencement speakers or addresses delivered by university presidents are not counted. To determine speaker ideology Young America’s Foundation considers FEC records, public statements, and elected or appointed office. For the 2018 survey, Young America’s Foundation pulled data on the 101 schools ranked in the top 100 by US News & World Report, of which 37 had multiple speakers or university leadership speaking, 23 speakers had unclear ideology, 38 speakers were determined to be liberal, and 3 were determined to be conservative.

**Ambassador Haley and Senator Scott were not included in the statistical count for this year’s survey due to Clemson’s multiple commencement ceremonies, but their status as the only two national conservative figures to be invited warranted mentioning.

The data for this year’s survey can be viewed here.

For further information or to request an interview, contact Spencer Brown via phone (800-872-1776) or email (sbrown@yaf.org).

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