Many of the graduating students turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and boos nearly drowned out her commencement speech Wednesday at Bethune-Cookman University.
DeVos carried on with her keynote address to the historically black university, praising its founder Mary McLeod Bethune as someone who “refused to accept systemic and repulsive racism,” and had “the courage to change old ideas.”
“Let’s choose to hear one another out,” DeVos said, reading her prepared text in a measured tone despite continuing waves of boos, catcalls and scattered applause.
“I am here to demonstrate in the most direct way possible that I and the administration are fully committed to your success and to the success of every student across this great country,” she said.
Some alumni and African-American leaders had called the invitation insensitive and misguided. Students gathered petitions demanding she not be allowed to speak. Before the address, activists lined a sidewalk. One sign said “DeVos is not worthy.”