Betsy DeVos Booed at Bethune-Cookman University Commencement

Posted May 12, 2017

"I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you, and particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here", DeVos said.

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was invited to deliver the commencement address at a historically black Daytona Beach, Florida university, she probably didn't expect to be booed for the effort.

Over boos and scattered applause, she called on students to give back via personal or public service. Let's choose to hear one another out.

About 60,000 signatures on two petitions were delivered to school officials on Tuesday objecting to her appearance at the university.

Jackson, an African-American and a Republican, and some others defended the choice of DeVos as the graduation speaker for the school, which was named for black educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

DeVos' speech lasted 20 minutes and it's safe to say this will be a commencement Bethune-Cookman won't soon forget.

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The verbal assault became so severe that the university's president interrupted DeVos' speech and warned students that if "this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you".

In her speech, DeVos praised Bethune-Cookman for providing the means to help its students overcome adversity and serve others.

Historically black colleges were founded prior to 1964 when segregation prevented blacks from attending most colleges and universities in the country.

"We are all about the business of making new friends", Jackson said at a pre-commencement news conference.

Shakindra Johnson, a 2008 graduate, said it should have been a proud day for the students and their families, but instead, DeVos seemed to be trying to appropriate the legacy of the school's founder. But he said "Bethune-Cookman University can't do it alone". She understood, however, the great value of education, and she understood the nuances of how to balance delicate and hard relationships in order to achieve her ultimate goal of building an institution of higher learning, of which we are the beneficiaries today.

Perhaps foreseeing the resistance she'd face during her speech, DeVos told the crowd, "While we will undoubtedly disagree at times I hope we can do so respectfully".