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Arizona State U., or rather, "I'm Embarrassed for U."

Here we go again.

To borrow from my late mother’s lexicon, it looks like Arizona “done gone and showed its behind.” Again.

Arizona is nationally and internationally known as the slow child in race relations because of its grudging and late acceptance of a Dr. King holiday. This time, it’s Arizona State University which is the race relations slow child by having President Obama give the university’s commencement speech but refusing to award him an honorary degree.

Say what?

Yes, Arizona State University, which, I would guess, probably doesn’t have as many Nobel laureates, Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars – pick any academic honor – as do the universities from which Mr. Obama holds REAL degrees, Columbia and Harvard – has decided that Mr. Obama’s “body of work” is yet to be seen and, as such, he doesn’t merit an honorary degree from that hallowed institution. Instead, they’ve opted to offer a scholarship in President Obama’s name.

What’s embarrassing is that they’ve had this discussion in the media, putting the president’s worthiness for their honorary degree up as a matter of public debate.

They should change their name to “I’m Embarrassed for U.” Do they know how stupid they look?

Outside of NCAA basketball, no one really knows much about or cares much about Arizona State. I hate to play the Ivy League card or credential poker, but, as a double Ivy Leaguer like Mr. Obama (Harvard and Princeton, to be exact), I must say that there is nothing that Arizona State can do to raise the profile of Mr. Obama given what he has already accomplished, academically and otherwise. In this case, those benefits flow one way and only one way – in the direction of Arizona State. If I were Mr. Obama, I wouldn’t even hang an honorary degree from Arizona State next to his diplomas from Columbia and Harvard Law and his two Harvard Law Review certificates. It would be like hanging a black velvet Elvis painting next to works by Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir. It just wouldn’t look right, if you get my drift.

The discussion of Mr. Obama’s merits, if any, should have been held in closed quarters, and he should not have been invited to give the commencement address if the university wasn’t going to award him an honorary degree. Most universities with any sense know that that’s the price of getting a highly accomplished, high profile speaker to give a commencement address. I’ve heard tell that Bill Cosby won’t give a commencement address without receiving an honorary degree. It goes to show that the folks in charge at ASU are either really stupid or really intent on slighting the President.

I’ve been in one faculty discussion regarding awarding an honorary degree, in this case to a slain civil rights hero. Mind you, this hero’s legacy had already been established and his reputation would not have been enhanced by receiving a posthumous honorary degree from this institution. But you would have thought the faculty members were discussing the conditions for peace in the Middle East in discussing what this person needed to have accomplished in order to receive an honorary degree from an ostensibly Podunk university. Again, it was a case of one-way benefits – the only party benefiting from this was the university, not the person or his family.

Why is it that the discussion of standards and merit only seems to arise when black people are at issue?

I know that Mr. Obama will have the class to give the speech and acknowledge the scholarship established in his honor. He’s far too sophisticated to say what I’m about to:

Arizona State, even if President Obama visited your university for the sole purpose of using a urinal, he would have done more for your school’s profile than you could have ever done for his. And if you were lucky, the Secret Service might, just might, allow one of your trustees to be present and wait for the presidential “shake.” It’s about all you deserve.

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