Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why ASU Chose NOT to Award Barack Obama with an Honorary Degree

I was not really surprised to hear that ASU decided not to give President Obama an honorary degree -- as would be customary -- on the occasion of his commencement address there this week. Their stated reason was that "Obama's body of work is yet to come."

My wife and I moved to Arizona in the summer of 1989. After the initial shock of daily 116 degree weather, it was the cultural anachronisms that really hit us. Seeing a large family ordering in a McDonald's dressed in old-fashioned clothes with the father openly bearing a side-arm was weird (no, it wasn't Halloween or anything.) On being introduced as recent transplants from California, we were asked point blank if we were married, "because we don't really go for that California co-habitation stuff here." We got used to that fact that they don't observe daylight savings time. But the big controversy was about not observing Martin Luther King Day. The reasons given ranged from "he was an adulterer" to "federal employees don't need another holiday." Of course, the real reason had less to do with the content of his character than with the color of his skin. They eventually caved on the issue because, well, they REALLY wanted to host a Superbowl.

In the end, it was the culture in Arizona, not the heat, that most encouraged us to move on to New Mexico. Hearing about the slight given to Obama this week, the way it resonated with our previous experiences there made the real reason for it rather transparent. (Hint: it is NOT because he is a "communist.") Of course, with the degrees he EARNED from Columbia and Harvard Law School, his experience as a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago -- not to mention having been elected President of the United States -- he really doesn't need a puff-up from the likes of ASU.

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