Obama Bumps Female Commencement Speaker at Barnard

Monday, 05 Mar 2012 02:25 PM

By Tim Plaehn

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Barnard College in New York City tossed aside the prominent female executive it had scheduled for its commencement speaker when the White House offered President Barack Obama instead, The Daily Caller reports.

The college was happy to replace New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson with the president, who also will receive the school’s highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction, at the ceremony.

Before the speaker switch, Barnard President Debora Spar had told students that she was “certain that . . . graduates will be energized by [Abramson's] words and personal story.”

The White House’s offer appears to be part of a campaign to increase the appeal of the president to female voters, according to the Caller. The administration has been under fire for the controversial attempt to force organizations with a religious affiliation to cover contraception services even if the practice is against an organization's religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, students at Columbia University, who had organized a year-long campaign to have the president speak at their commencement, expressed outrage. Columbia is the president’s alma mater and Barnard’s parent university. Colombia students expressed their chagrin — sometimes strongly — through several online media venues. The students were quick to point out that women also attend Columbia.

Abramson would have been the fourth consecutive woman commencement speaker at the all-women Barnard. The three previous speakers were Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actress Meryl Streep and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg.

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