After protests from some students and teachers, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday that she is withdrawing as speaker from Rutgers University’s commencement ceremony later this month year, saying she didn’t want to be a distraction for the school.
Ms. Rice’s upcoming May 18 appearance had sparked protests at the New Jersey school, including several dozen students who conducted a sit-in at an administration building to protest her role in supporting the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a statement Saturday morning, Ms. Rice defended both her role serving the country and her belief in “free speech and the exchange of ideas.”
“These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But that is not what is at issue here. As a professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as its former provost and chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way,” she said.
The university’s board had invited Ms. Rice and was poised to pay her a $35,000 speaking fee, according to local news reports.
Ms. Rice served as President George W. Bush’s national security adviser in his first term, and secretary of state in his second term.