As Keynote Speaker McCain Not Welcome by Some at New School

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The New York Sun

Hundreds of New School students, staffers, and faculty members want the university to rescind its invitation to Senator McCain, who is set to receive an honorary degree and give the keynote speech at the graduation ceremony in two weeks.

The campaign against the Republican of Arizona began three weeks ago, after the New School’s president, Bob Kerrey – a former Democratic senator of Nebraska – announced that Mr. McCain would give the speech. Since then, about 1,000 signatures have been collected on paper petitions and at an Internet site, an organizer of the opposition, Harper Keenan, said.

“This ceremony is supposed to represent the culmination of these students’ experience at a school that is known for being progressive, liberal, and open-minded,” she said. “For the speaker not to represent these values at all is appalling.”

Ms. Keenan is the president of Out Proud Environment at New School, a gay and lesbian group on campus. She said many of the group’s members take issue with Mr. McCain’s votes against gay marriage. They are also upset that he is speaking at the Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University – a fundamentalist, Baptist institution in Virginia – just six days before he comes to the New School.

Progressive economists and historians including Thorstein Veblen and Charles Beard were among the founders of the New School, formerly known as the New School for Social Research.

Mr. Kerrey told The New York Sun last night that those opposed to Mr. McCain giving the speech were getting caught up in presidential politics, and were judging him unfairly.

“The students will hear a very good speech from a man who is from a relatively small group of people who are considered world leaders today,” he said.

In a letter to the university community on Friday, Mr. Kerrey said he had no intention of withdrawing his invitation to Mr. McCain.

“Senator McCain is one of the greatest and most influential moral and political leaders or our age,” he wrote. “His public service accomplishments are not only entirely consistent with our best traditions, but far outweigh any disagreements we may have on any particular issue.”

Students opposed to Mr. McCain said they are planning a variety of ways to protest his speech, including turning their backs on the senator while he is speaking, Ms. Keenan said.

“Senator McCain represents a very conservative agenda that flies in the face of the values and spirit of New School University,” a master’s student in nonprofit management, Joshua Cohen, said. “Our graduation should not be a political platform.”

Students at Columbia University are planning to protest Mr. McCain’s speech at their annual Class Day, three days before the New School speech.

The New York Sun

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