Before U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos even opened her mouth to deliver the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, the audience filled with graduates, students and family members booed her.
“I am honored to become a Wildcat,” DeVos said after Bethune-Cookman’s President Dr. Edison Jackson introduced her to speak at the podium. Shortly after she began her speech, she was welcomed with an arousing disapproval from those in the audience.
DeVos, who was announced as the historically Black college’s graduation speaker less than two weeks ago, has been protested by many including current students and alumni.
Amidst her speech, President Jackson interrupted and asked the students to “choose which way you want to go” and said “your degrees will be mailed to you.”
“While we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Lets choose to hear one another out,” Secretary DeVos said.
She then went on to reiterate her support of HBCUs by saying, "please know that we support you and we will continue to support you... I am at the table fighting on your behalf."
However, the new administration hasn't proven that to be true, considering President Donald Trump's recent signing statement that hints that he may not implement a program that financially assists HBCU renovation projects. The 45th President suggested that the funding may be 'unconstitutional.'
In addition, Secretary DeVos recently undercut student loan protections that were put in place by the Barack Obama administration. The policy memorandums that were withdrawn required that the government’s Federal Student Aid office do more to help borrowers manage or discharge their debt, Bloomberg reports.
The newly sworn-in Secretary, who has no previous educational experience, went on to discuss her respect for the University’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune.
“She fought for one singular goal … access to a quality education they were unjustly denied. Her service is what brought us together today… she moved mountains,” DeVos said about the founder of the Daytona Beach Florida college.
“We all arrived here with different life experiences and different perspectives. I view that as not a negative, but a gift … we can focus on differences that might divide us or we can choose to learn from others experiences and perspectives,” she continued.