Secretary of Education Betsy Devos delivered the commencement address today at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation ceremony, and she didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes from the graduating class.
Politico reports that DeVos struggled to be heard throughout her address at the historically black university, with hundreds in the crowd booing and turning their backs to her. While many of them eventually calmed down and took their seats, university president Edison O. Jackson at one point had to threaten, “Your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”
DeVos seemed determined to connect with the crowd, despite their raucous behavior.
DeVos stressed she was eager to engage especially with those who disagreed with her. She pledged the Trump administration’s commitment to historically black colleges and universities, citing a recent proposal to restore funding for year-round Pell grants as one example.
“I am at the table fighting on your behalf, and on behalf of all students across this great nation,” she said.
Crowd reactions ranged from, “I just feel like she cannot relate” to she “knows nothing about HBCUs and how they were founded.”
DeVos passionately made the case for both sides coming together instead of talking over each other.
“We must first listen, then speak — with humility — to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree.”