The students of the historically black Bethune-Cookman University booed her, they yelled over her speech, they even turned their backs on her. For 25 minutes the students at Bethune Cookman reminded us just how far Obama has divided our nation.

Betsy DeVos just proved to America why President Trump chose her among so many qualified candidates to reform our broken education system. Full-grown men would have crumbled under the kind of pressure and hate she was facing during her graceful commencement speech. Let’s face it, most of us would have walked off the stage, but Betsy DeVos, firm in her resolution to deliver the speech she was invited to share, stood at the podium, and against all odds, addressed an angry group of students railing against “the injustice” at a college where 95% of the students receive some form of state or federal grant money.

During the roughly 25-minute speech, DeVos took time to address the criticism that’s come her way since she was unveiled as the university’s graduation speaker, telling the crowd it was important to converse with and learn from people despite disagreements.

The natural instinct is to join in the chorus of conflict, to make your voice louder, your point bigger and your position stronger,” DeVos said. “But we will not solve the significant and real problems our country faces if we cannot bring ourselves to embrace a mindset of grace.”

“We must first listen, then speak – with humility – to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree,” she continued.

While DeVos spoke, the students continued to heckle and yell over DeVos as she persevered through her speech. The University president who was clearly embarrassed by the behavior of the graduates finally stepped up to the microphone to address the students in hopes of getting the disrespectful group under control telling them, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you wanna go.” He then implored the students to be seated.

The students chose to continue with their embarrassing behavior, at which time DeVos began to once again address the crowd:

Many Bethune-Cookman University students, alumni and supporters made their disapproval of DeVos’ appearance known well before she took the stage.

On Tuesday, Bethune-Cookman University students and alumni delivered thousands of signatures to the school’s president, Edison O. Jackson, and the university’s Board of Trustees in a last-ditch effort to try and change their minds about inviting DeVos to speak.

DeVos, a West Michigan native, initially drew ire from students and supporters from historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, throughout the country after she connected HBCUs to the school choice movement in February. –MLive

DeVos recently met with presidents and chancellors of historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, at the White House. Following that meeting, she said in a statement that a key priority for the administration was to help develop opportunities for underserved communities, and praised HBCUs for fulfilling that mission all along.

“They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education,” she said in the statement. “They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.”

DeVos continued: “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”

Critics were quick to point out on social media that HBCUs were initially founded in part because black students often did not have the option to enroll in existing public institutions in the South.

Others noted public HBCUs were generally not offered the same amount of funding and resources predominantly white colleges and universities received.

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education about the controversy, Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said similar comments she made in the listening session “didn’t come across as ill-spirited,” but was a poor analogy.

“I think she was honestly trying to find a way to connect her experience with HBCUs,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. –MLive

 


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