Opinion: Jeremiah Wright axed from honorary degree by Northwestern U.


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In a highly unusual move in the academic world, Northwestern University in suburban Chicago has publicly disinvited the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright from its June commencement ceremonies, where he was to receive an honorary degree.

It’s another indication of the rolling repercussions of the retiring African American pastor’s inflammatory comments on America, 9/11, race relations, the AIDs epidemic and Illinois’ junior senator, Barack Obama.

As the leading candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Obama had hoped that the blow-up over videos of Wright’s racially tinged sermons had gone away.

But this week Wright himself took the stump in Texas, Michigan and Washington to defend himself and to make further suggestions, one of which was that Obama was distancing himself from Wright for political reasons and might not really believe what he was saying.


That caused the candidate to make numerous strong statements further distancing himself.

Today comes word that the political controversy has.... seeped into the academic world as the only private institution in the Big Ten has quietly rescinded its offer of an honorary degree to Wright, which will keep Wright in the news a while longer as the crucial Indiana and North Carolina primaries loom next Tuesday.

When word of the disinvitation leaked, the school said it was acting on faculty committee recommendations.

The letter to Wright said: ‘Commencement at Northwestern is a time of celebration of the accomplishments of Northwestern’s graduating students and their families. In light of the controversy around Dr. Wright and to ensure that the celebratory character of Commencement not be affected, the University has withdrawn its invitation to Dr. Wright.’

According to the WBBM-TV website in Chicago, the university said a claim that Northwestern President Henry Bienen had questioned Wright’s patriotism was not true.

Wright had been quoted elsewhere as saying Bienen had withdrawn the honorary degree invitation because Wright ‘wasn’t patriotic enough.’

‘In his conversation and correspondence with Dr. Wright in March, President Bienen never characterized Dr. Wright’s views or made a judgment about them,’ said a Northwestern spokeswoman, Mary Jane Twohey.

The letter said, ‘In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern’s commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree. Thus I am withdrawing the offer of an honorary degree previously extended to you.’

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credit: Trinity United Church of Christ