Betsy DeVos Booed, Protested While Delivering Speech At Florida HBCU

Alvin Kelly
May 18, 2017

In the end, though, the boos gradually subsided and DeVos concluded her prepared remarks - though not before she delivered a few more pointed comments on difference and understanding.

In February, DeVos described HBCUs as "real pioneers when it comes to school choice".

The HBCUs, protesters said, were "born not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism".

DeVos said the Trump administration is fully committed to the students' success. When university President Edison Jackson introduced her, the boo's rained down mercilessly.

Holy cow, #bethunecookman dean interrupts DeVos speech, threatens students "your degrees will be mailed to you!" "Choose which way you want to go", he said.

DeVos has come under fire by civil rights groups including the Black Lives Matter movement for some her positions supporting private schools, charter schools and religious education. Students have been protesting en masse and B-CU graduate Dominik Whitehead even started a Change.org petition to prevent DeVos from attending.

Eventually, things calmed down and she finished her speech.

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"I'm protesting because she will continue to directly affect me after this and make it harder for me to get to graduation", said one of the protesters.

DeVos has been met at several events with anger and protests. Roughly half the students present turned their backs on her as she spoke. "Let's choose to hear each other out", DeVos said in reaction, trying to control the situation.

"Having DeVos speak at the commencement ceremony is an insult to the B-CU graduating class, students, alumni, family, friends, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's legacy". "When we seek to shelter our students and campus communities from views that are diametrically opposed to their own, we actually leave our students far less capable of combating those ideas".

Some students agreed, saying the school needs help from anyone offering it, no matter their party affiliation. She continued, "And particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here. Is there more DeVos can do to win the support of HBCUs? Numerous graduates stood and turned their backs to DeVos as she spoke - about half of the almost 400 people receiving degrees this term, according to reports from the scene.

For almost the entire time the secretary of education spoke, she was booed, shouted at, and met with calls of "Go home!" from students and audience members.

Kudos to DeVos for not backing out of the speech after the initial backlash.

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