The University has announced that the former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will receive an honorary degree and give the 2018 Baccalaureate Address during Sewanee’s Commencement ceremony on May 13.
Rice was the 66th United States Secretary of State from 2005-2009 and served as President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term. Rice takes the title for the first woman African-American Secretary of State, the second African-American Secretary of State, and the second female Secretary of State.
After growing up in a segregated Alabama, Rice went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver and a Master’s in political science at Notre Dame University.
In addition to working in the realm of politics, Rice served as Stanford University’s Provost from 1993-1999 and helped found the international strategic consulting firm RiceHadleyGates. Currently, Rice works at the Stanford School of Business as the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy as well as teaching political science at the University.
Many students preferred not to comment upon Rice’s approaching visit as they felt either uninformed or were unwilling to share their opinion.
Sean Heffron (C’18), a senior politics major, articulated his opinion by saying, “I guess the Honor Code doesn’t apply to lying about weapons of mass destruction.”
Conversely, Abbey Shockley (C’18) stated, “I’m incredibly excited to have a strong female figure giving the Baccalaureate address this year, particularly in this political climate and on the heels of the Charlie Rose issue.”
Lindsey Floyd (C’18), President of the College Republicans, agreed, saying, “I think it’s an exciting opportunity for our class to hear someone as influential as Dr. Rice speak. She’s a great example of an empowered individual in the political community; as the first black woman to hold the office of Secretary of State, she is an important representation of minorities in the US.”
Another political group on campus, the Young Democratic Socialists, told The Purple, “The Sewanee Young Democratic Socialists are disappointed, yet not surprised, by the University’s decision to choose Condoleezza Rice as an honorary degree recipient and as the Baccalaureate Speaker. Although we appreciate Sewanee’s decision to choose a person of color to fill this important role, it is clear that Ms. Rice does not represent the community on this campus.”
They continued, “This seems to be a blatant attempt at appeasing the University’s Board of Regents, and the Trustees, after recent tension regarding Charlie Rose’s honorary degree. We feel that this decision is an unfortunately missed opportunity to adequately address students’ valid criticisms of the University’s poor reputation with underrepresentation of persons of color.”
At the Baccalaureate service, honorary degrees will also be awarded to Jamaican journalist, playwright, and director Barbara Goodison Gloudon, and to David Lodge (C’79), the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.
CORRECTION (4/9/18): Cameron Mason (C’18) does not currently serve as President of the Sewanee Democrats, which is now a defunct organization. The sentence mentioning him has been removed from the article.