It's also noteworthy that Obama picked Barnard - which put Deborah Spar in a slightly embarrassing position when she had to disinvite the formerly scheduled speaker. Also noteworthy, for you history buffs, Obama's younger sister is a Barnard alum.
From the NY Times:
An Obama administration official confirmed on Friday that the White House had called Barnard to offer the president as the commencement speaker.
Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard, said she was thrilled that the president would deliver the keynote speech at the commencement on May 14.
A month ago, Barnard College announced that Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times, would be its graduation speaker, but those plans changed with the call from the White House. Ms. Spar said that Ms. Abramson had said she would be happy to speak at Barnard in the future.
My D is an alum (graduated in 2009) and is pretty much in line with what Mardad described.
I really hope that President Obama does not use this commencement address as a purely political opportunity, even though it's pretty clear that his motivation for speaking at a prominent women's college is political gain (or, as the NYT puts it, to make it clear that the other party is trying to wage a "war on women").
My D is very excited and proud that President Obama is speaking at graduation this year. But I very mixed feelings about it. I am holding any judgement in reserve until I hear what he says. But it is rather, well, interesting that (as Calmom pointed out) Barnard had to "un-invite" a very successful woman as Commencement speaker so that Obama could take the stage.
Back to the point, being politically conservative at Barnard is a kind of lonely stand, but it's one that is do-able.
My older daughter is very politically conservative. While Columbia is not Barnard per se, she always said that her best friends were from Barnard. (She graduated Columbia last year.) I should add that she would be very annoyed had Obama spoken at her graduation -- both because of the politicization of the event (and because she thinks he has an outsized ego already), and because of the logistical hassles that would/will inevitably ensue due to his presence. The Columbia graduation is not your warm, fuzzy, Midwestern-small-liberal-arts-college commencement. It involves limited numbers of tickets, tight gates, security, tight timing... And I hate to think of Secret Service added to all of that.
In any event, politically conservative D1 was very, very happy at Columbia.
I don't think it is or should be a political issue when a public official speaks at a college graduation. It is a huge honor for Barnard, and the 2012 graduates, to have the sitting President of the US choose their school as the location for the commencement address.
The NY Times article about the President's motivations is a matter of editorializing, not fact. The President usually delivers commencement addresses at a small number of colleges each year -- in the past, he has chosen military academies (West Point, Navy & Coast Guard), a prestigious Catholic university (Notre Dame), large public universities (Michigan, ASU), at an HBCU (Hampton) -- and many others. There may be many reasons that he has opted to chose a women's college this year, not the least of which is that he is the father of two daughters and the brother of a Barnard alum.
Of course there is likely to be heightened security -- but the campus can handle it. Obama and other high profile figures have spoken at Columbia before, if not necessarily at the graduation. but it seems to me to be rather odd that a Columbia grad claims that she would have been "annoyed" if Obama had spoken last year, given the fact that there was a Columbia campaign in 2011 to try to get Obama to speak, and Columbia students were disappointed when it was announced that Obama would be speaking at other colleges. (See: President Obama’s commencement addresses?Columbia not included | Spectrum & How to Get Obama to Speak at Commencement – Bwog) Sounds kind of like jealousy & sour grapes to me.
Indeed, it's pretty amusing to read comments on BWOG and in Spec from angry and jealous CC students! It's been that way for years, though, as Barnard always seems to have better speakers for their class day than CC! Sadly, many of these immature and apparently insecure students take the opportunity to engage in "Barnard-bashing". It's kind of funny if you have actually been associated with Barnard and really know what it's like there. Really sad if you were to think this is how all CC students perceive Barnard students (it's not).
calmom-- I was speaking only for MY daughter, individually. I think that you are correct in your assumptions re: Columbia students more generally. My daughter would, in fact, be "annoyed" by Obama speaking. Most of what he does annoys her. His speech on campus would not be a matter of pleasure for her (aside from a vague institutional pride); she would see it as a source of logistical time consumption. She would also suspect that she (personally, individually) would be grinding her teeth through parts of the speech. That is not "sour grapes." That is her political point of view. When Ben Stein spoke locally, she (at age fifteen or so) sat in the front row, asked a question, and stuck around -- even ended up with her picture in the student newspaper (because she was mistaken by the photographer for an undergrad). She is just not an Obama fan. But, again, you would be correct to categorize my comments as you did if you assumed that I was ascribing her "annoyance" to CC students more generally.
By the way -- D1 has STRONGLY encouraged D2 to apply to Barnard (NOT to Columbia!), which D2 has done. I will not name the organization (could pm me if you are at all interested), but D1, far from "bashing" Barnard students, was HEAVILY involved in a traditionally Barnard organization, for three years of her time in undergrad. As I said previously, she always told me (and I became personally acquainted with the "proof") that her best female friends were Barnard students, not Columbia -- partly by chance, partly by temperament, partly because of her involvement with the Barnard organization. My daughter is one Columbia grad who truly loves and respects Barnard -- and wants to send her own sister there!
I wish I shared your "hope" that he's not going to use this as another campaign speech, churchmusicmom. I just cannot see much in the four-year history that BO has been on our radar that would suggest any attempt to be all-American President.
I agree that it is the matter of editorializing (always is with NYT), calmom, but it is an awfully big coincidence that he invites himself during the time of a big "birth control" debate. Politicians are known for not letting "a crisis go to waste." Regardless the motive, it will be a very memorable event, I'm sure, for this year's graduating class.
Chuchmusicmom, I did read some of the comments on Bwog and the Spectator and agree that they do not reflect what happens "above-ground." This is my D's first year and her Barnard experience has turned out everything she had hoped for. She's not met anyone talking about the BC girls the way some on the blogs do.
I must say that I was originally surprised that she put Barnard at the top of her list; I was trying to find something, anything wrong with that school to try to change her mind. However, the more I read about it, the more I liked it. I must say, I think I read almost every post that you, churchmusicmom and calmom, put on this site. They were very helpful!!! Thank you! Visiting the school just seal the deal.
My D is not politically involved, she has had her head dug deep in the science and English books, but her views are mostly conservative/libertarian, probably for the same reasons as mardad's D.
piglette, your daughter is great. It made me laugh how you describe what her reaction would be; plus I love hearing stories of young people understanding the conservative values. My D is more "whatev'" kind-of person as it comes to either Obama or Abramson coming to BC, it's not like she did not know that she was heading to a mecca of liberalism. I think she just doesn't spend much time reading up the current news and hence doesn't want to get into discussions.
I felt kind of bad when my D came over on Saturday just so very excited and proud of the fact that the President would be speaking at graduation, and her dad and I were petty much "wet blankets" about the whole thing. I am not all that optimistic about this not being a very, very political speech. It's his job right now to be re-elected. As a parent who is not a supporter of the man, I would be pretty upset if he took over my own D's class day to make a political statement with which I do not fundamentally agree...and that is to demonize the other side of the current debate. I am very afraid that is his purpose here, and the NYT article said as much.
We will just see. I am very interested in hearing this speech.
I feel rather dismayed that there are parents and students whose personal partisan feelings are so strong that they cannot appreciate what an honor it is for the President of the United State to select a particular college to speak at a commencement.
If the President feels that for political reasons that there is a value in having an opportunity to speak to women on women's issues at the present time -- then that is all the more reason that Barnard women and their parent should be delighted. I would say that there is highly unlikely that the President will speak about contraception, as it really is not an appropriate topic for a commencement address -- but he may speak about things like the courage to stand for one's own beliefs. The remarks that have been made about the Georgetown law student who testified as to her concerns are unconscionable, and also typical of the type of barriers often face.
I'd note however, that my own daughter was quite happy with the health services provided at Barnard, especially when it came to women's health issues, an area where the BC women seemed to be better served than the CC women. For example Barnard also made the HPV vaccine available for its students without charge, whereas CC women had to pay a substantial sum- see: Disparities in HPV vaccine prices at Columbia, Barnard
It is unlikely that the President will get very much mileage politically out of a commencement speech -- it's not the sort of thing that draws much press coverage, and whatever attention he does get is likely to be quickly forgotten.
But he will be drawing positive attention to Barnard College.
The CC students who seem to be upset (and are posting in places like the BWOG) seem to feel that they have some sort of entitlement because of their view of BC students as second-class citizens of the greater CU community, and because Obama graduated from Columbia. But I think they have forgotten that Obama was at Columbia when it was for men only, so it is likely that as a young, single student Obama would had much greater respect for Barnard women than is presently the case. The undergraduate women he met on campus or in the classroom would have then necessarily been Barnard women, and he would have seen Barnard as being the female complement to the male-only college he attended. Further, Obama's younger sister was at Barnard at the same time that he was at Harvard law, so it is also quite likely that he visited his sister and perhaps even stayed as a guest in her dorm room while she was in college -- so he may have a formed a very favorable impression of Barnard. In his eyes, coming to Barnard may be away of showing his high regard for that school while at the same time acknowledging his alma mater. (I mean, if Obama decided to give a commencement speech to Columbia Law grads.... would there be the same resentment from CC quarters?)
I agree that the Pres of the US is honoring Barnard by his presence and should be welcomed by all. On the other hand, I imagine that had his predecessor somehow been scheduled to speak, it would have set off a protest, which is worth keeping in mind.