Only 1 of Top 100 National Universities Featured Conservative Commencement Speaker, Report Says

May 20, 2021 Updated: May 21, 2021

Conservative voices are overwhelmingly absent at commencement speeches this spring, as only one of the nation’s top 100 universities invited a right-leaning guest speaker to address the outgoing class of 2021, according to a recent report by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).

“With 37 liberal speakers imparting progressive ideas and just one conservative addressing graduates, the bias in this year’s commencement season is undeniable,” YAF said in reporting the findings of its annual survey, which examines the ideological affiliation of commencement speakers at the top 100 national universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Each speaker’s ideology, according to YAF, is determined by surveying public FEC records, searchable public statements and endorsements, and service in elected or appointed office.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the U.S. government’s pandemic response team, is among this year’s most popular speakers with a liberal listing. He delivered the keynote address virtually for the University of North Carolina, as well as several private institutions, including Emory University, Vanderbilt University, the Yale School of Public Health, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who recently came under fire due to a proposed rule to prioritize funding education programs that promote Critical Race Theory, was featured in a virtual commencement ceremony at the University of Connecticut. A Connecticut native, Cardona previously served as the state’s K-12 school chief before being tapped by President Joe Biden to join his cabinet.

Some other speakers on the political left include Oprah Winfrey, Brian Stevenson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who, as the YAF noted, all have a history in social justice activism.

The only speaker identified by the YAF as conservative is Thomas Jorden, a donor to the Republican Party and the chief executive of Cimarex Energy, a Denver, Colorado-based oil and natural gas company. Jorden spoke last week at three separate commencement events at Colorado School of Mines, where he graduated in 1980.

The YAF labeled the rest on the list as “N/A” or “unclear,” including Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, who spoke at his university’s commencement ceremony. Although a known Republican, Daniels was marked as “university leadership, N/A.”

“As made obvious in this year’s survey, universities continue to push far-left narratives from the first day of classes all the way until students walk across stage for their diploma,” YAF spokeswoman Kara Zupkus said.

Last year’s YAF survey also found just one conservative commencement speaker. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, delivered a virtual speech on May 16, 2020, to students at Miami University, the second-oldest university in Ohio.