A convicted cop killer and former Black Panther whose case helped to derail one of President Obama’s top nominees has been chosen to give the commencement address at a Vermont college.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been selected by undergraduate students at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, as their commencement speaker on Sunday.
Abu-Jamal was convicted in the 1981 slaying of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was reduced on appeal to life imprisonment.
The inmate’s notoriety helped to sink the nomination earlier this month of Debo Adegbile, who was Mr. Obama’s choice to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Mr. Adegbile had helped to represent Abu Jamal’s case on appeal while working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Senators opposed to Mr. Adegbile’s nomination said he went beyond legal representation into political advocacy in the case. Mr. Adegbile withdrew from consideration earlier this month, and Mr. Obama has not announced a new nominee for the post.
The college said Abu-Jamal’s speech has been prerecorded by Prison Radio.
“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker,” Goddard College Interim President Bob Kenny said in a statement. “Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”
The college said Abu-Jamal received a bachelor of arts degree from the school in 1996, completing his coursework by mail.