John McCain Booed at New School Commencement

Senator John McCain was booed and otherwise rudely received at New York’s New School University, where he delivered a commencement address at the invitation of its president, Bob Kerrey, his former colleague and fellow Vietnam veteran.


Senator John McCain of Arizona received a cantankerous reception during his appearance at the New School commencement Friday, where dozens of faculty members and students turned their backs and raised signs in protest and a distinguished student speaker pointedly mocked him as he sat silently nearby.


“Sen. McCain, you have much to teach us,” Kerrey said to a smattering of boos and hisses. He urged students to exercise the open-mindedness he said was at the heart of the university’s progressive history.

But Kerrey’s remarks were immediately overshadowed by those of Jean Sara Rohe, one of two distinguished seniors invited by the university’s deans to address the graduates. Beginning by singing a wistful folk tune calling for world peace, Rohe announced she had thrown out her prepared remarks to address the McCain controversy directly. “The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded,” Rohe proclaimed to loud cheers, with McCain sitting just a few feet away.


The heckling continued when Mr. Kerrey returned to the lectern, with one audience member shouting, “You’re a war criminal!” Mr. Kerrey, a Medal of Honor winner, has admitted to leading a mission that resulted in the deaths of 13 to 20 unarmed civilians.

McCain handled this rude treatment with good humor.

“When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed and wiser than anyone else I knew,” McCain said. He added that he would have been right at home in the opinionated world of blogs.


After yesterday’s event, Mr. McCain told reporters he felt “fine” about his reception. “I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can’t listen to the views of others,” he said.

Such rude behavior toward an invited guest of the university, especially as it also marred a special day for those in attendance, is simply despicable. College commencement ceremonies are meant to be solemn occasions, where graduates and their families reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come. Aside from the fact that he had recently delivered almost the same speech at Liberty University, there was nothing particularly controversial. McCain’s speech was largely apolitical and contained much of the normal platitudes expected on such occasions.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Len says:

    As you noted, commencement is meant to honor the graduates and their families. Mostly the graduates. So why invite a commencement speaker the graduates obviously did not want and would not agree with? Is Mr. Kerrey unaware that he is running a liberal school? Why would anybody be surprised with the reception that Mr. McCain received? Why would they expect any different?

    Would you invite John Kerry to give the commencement address at Bob Jones University?

  2. Kathy says:

    Well said, Len.

  3. Stevely says:


    So the New School is now on a level with Bob Jones University?

  4. Len says:

    In the sense that the New School is traditionally liberal and Bob Jones is traditionally nutty, yes.

  5. Dave says:

    I don’t know if it is an especially liberal school, but I do know it is a third tier joke of an institution.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Does anyone know how New School selects its commencement speakers? At my alma mater many, many years ago the graduating seniors voted on a roster of prospective speakers.

  7. G A Phillips says:

    Spineless donkey spawn don’t even know one of their own leaders. It must be nice to think that talking sh-t will change the world.

  8. Ratoe says:

    College commencement ceremonies are meant to be solemn occasions, where graduates and their families reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.

    Yeah, right. Then why the hell have an unprincipled opportunist like McCain come speak? By inviting this idiot to speak, war criminal Kerrey politicized the event.

  9. Bithead says:

    So the democrats’ favored republican gets booed by a bunch of leftist kids. bush 41 learns the hard way what comes of trying to compromise with these bastards. McCain , smart as he is, never picked up on that message. As a result he’s been trying to compromise conservative principles to gain popularity for several years.

    He probably just learned what the truth is, as regards his chances of pulling all that off.

  10. I wish Senator McCain had turned to former Senator Kerrey and asked him if they perhaps needed to add a mandatory course in manners to the curriculum. A fundamental, very simple point the Angry Left has still not grasped is that not every battle is to be fought to the death. The level of incivility shown to anyone they disagree with is appallingly rude.

    It is necessary to build a consensus in any form of self government. As a friend once told me before most of those graduating from the New School were born, you can’t call someone ugly all week and then ask them to go to the dance with you on Saturday night. Or is it that the Angry Left has had enough of trying to convince people and prefers to impose their will on the rest of us?

    As Senator McCain said, here’s hoping many of the graduates and their defenders will grow up soon.

  11. nevaeh says:

    It was shocking and refreshing scene from my point of view. Living in a country where some norms are strictly respected(heeding when the old are saying…), expressing one’s own idea so directly is just completely new to me.