YAF’s 28th Annual Commencement Speaker Survey Finds Same Old Leftist Lessons Continue Amid Unprecedented Graduation Season.

Of the Top 100 schools in America—as ranked by US News & World Report—none had a traditional, in-person, commencement ceremony this spring, while only about a quarter invited guest speakers to address graduates virtually.

Despite these atypical commencements, the same typical leftist slant is still glaring. Of the few schools that had a commencement speaker this spring, liberals dominated. Even amid a global pandemic, university administrators did not waver from their coddling of young minds to push one last dose of leftism for their graduates.

“Just as universities roll out the red carpet for leftist guest lecturers, so they invite and welcome leftist figures from media, pop culture, and government to deliver a final lesson to graduates at commencement—even when commencement is virtual,” noted Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown. “The Left maintains their educational echo chamber at the expense of their students’ intellectual strength and the once-noble pursuit of higher learning.”

Leftist leaders in government such as New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Colorado Governor Jared Polis (Colorado School of Mines), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (University of Maryland), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Northwestern University) were plentiful at 2020’s virtual commencements. 

The only elected leader from the other side of the aisle to deliver a virtual commencement address at a top-100 school was Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (Miami University—Oxford). 

Liberals from the spheres of entertainment and business were also well-represented, including comedian Ken Jeong (Duke University), actor George Takei (University of California—Los Angeles), Apple CEO Tim Cook (The Ohio State University), and Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian (Johns Hopkins University).

When it comes to media figures, commencement speakers included Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron (Harvard University), CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker (University of California—San Diego), and NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt (Rutgers University). 

For comparison, no reporters, anchors, or executives from Fox News—America’s most-watched cable news network—spoke at America’s top 100 colleges and universities. 

In addition, no leading conservative authors, actors, or members of YAF’s largest-in-America lecture program—not even Ben Shapiro, the most-requested speaker on America’s campuses—addressed graduates at the country’s highest-ranked schools. 

Also notably lacking from commencement ceremonies this year: any member of the Trump administration or conservative member of the U.S. House or Senate. 

Previous releases of YAF’s Commencement Speaker Survey found dozens of commencement addresses delivered by members of the Obama administration, including 15 in 2015 and 11 in 2016.

While Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump was invited to deliver a commencement address at Wichita State University Tech, she was later dropped from the school’s virtual program. Ivanka went ahead and released her pre-recorded address anyway, publishing it to the White House’s YouTube channel and her own Twitter. Importantly, she notes that “Our nation’s campuses should be bastions of free speech. Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia.” That’s a lesson graduates could definitely use.

Perhaps the lack of commencement addresses—virtual or otherwise—is a good thing. “Trapped in their bleacher seats,” as the New York Times recently described typical commencements, graduates and their families are normally force-fed inane leftism. 

Cory Booker recently lamented the lack of opportunity to spread his brand of divisive liberalism to the newest class of graduates. But the lack of typical commencements still didn’t slow liberals’ work to ensure the rising generation entering the so-called “real world” had one last lesson. 

YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual commencement celebration—while not from a Top 100 school—illustrates the larger problem also seen in how top schools select their guest speakers. Featuring Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Lizzo, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and the cast of Schitt’s Creek, only Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates could be considered as bringing any sort of ideological diversity to the lineup.

Methodology: YAF’s annual Commencement Speaker Survey looks at the Top 100 National Universities in America as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Speakers were included only if they were not employed by the university or not the only/primary guest speaker. The research from YAF’s 2020 Commencement Speaker Survey can be viewed and downloaded here. 


For additional information or to request an interview contact YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown via sbrown@yaf.org or 800-872-1776.