Condoleezza Rice backs out of giving Rutgers commencement speech

By Kyle Johnson,

Condoleezza Rice decided to back out of giving the commencement speech as students and faculty protested her selection.

Those protesting the university's decision to invite her were doing so because of the former secretary of state's role in the Iraq war, reports The New York Times. Students felt strongly enough that they had a sit-in outside of Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi's office.

Rice released a statement saying, "Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families." She added that her inclusion had become a "distraction" for the school. She finished off by noting that she is "honored to have served" the country and "I have defended America's belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas."

According to The Associated Press, Rice's resignation came as school officials made it clear they weren't interested in revoking their invitation. Barchi said in a statement, the university is "fully behind the invitation," but understood her reasons for backing out.

Rutgers' board of governors had agreed to pay Rice $35,000 for appearing at commencement, which was scheduled for May 18. The school is now looking into alternate choices for speakers.

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