Education Secretary Betsy Devos was the commencement speaker on Wednesday afternoon at the Bethune Cookman University graduation in Daytona Beach, where she was faced with a chorus of boos and graduating students who turned their backs to her during her remarks.
The controversy began as soon as the selection of Devos as a commencement speaker was announced earlier this month. After the news was delivered, students organized protests, and the NAACP called on the BCC President and Chair of the Board of Directors to step down.
School leaders held a press conference this morning to defend their decision of selecting DeVos and pushed school tradition over political parties.
As protests took place outside of the Ocean Center, attendees immediately booed DeVos while she was receiving an honorary degree from school leaders earlier in the program. As soon as she began her speech the boos began and many of the graduates, stood up and turned their backs. Throughout the ceremony some students were escorted out of the floor of the venue.
While the boos died down after a few minutes, as DeVos wished students well as they embarked on their paths after graduation, they began again after the Education Secretary mentioned that she would be visiting the grave of College founder Mary McLeod Bethune later in the day.
DeVos closed her remarks by challenging students to face life’s challenges with grace.
“You have the opportunity to do better. To lead a new era of engagement in our communities.” she said “I am humbled by the opportunity to be here with you.”
The Education Secretary, who has ties to Orlando Magic ownership, was one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks requiring a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence in the Senate to be confirmed.