Former Obama DHS Sec. Johnson declines invitation to deliver Vassar College commencement speech following student objections

A former top ally of President Joe Biden and colleague in the prior Obama administration, former Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson, became a subject of controversy in recent weeks.

Former Sec. Johnson had been picked to deliver the commencement address at Vasser College but has since withdrawn after leftist students threatened to disrupt the graduation ceremony with protests over his previous enforcement of border security and immigration policies, Breitbart reported.

Now, instead of Vasser hosting the former Obama official with family ties to the school, the commencement address at the graduation ceremony will be delivered by actor John Leguizamo.

Students launch rhetorical attacks against former Obama official

According to Insider, Vasser College had announced in February that Sec. Johnson would deliver the commencement address, likely in part due to his connection to the school, given that his late father, Jeh Vincent Johnson, had been an architecture professor there for roughly four decades.

But Johnson withdrew himself from that invitation a short time later following intense pushback from leftist students angry over Johnson’s work during the second half of the Obama administration to enforce the nation’s borders and immigration rules.

Indeed, in a since-deleted but archived article from Vasser’s student newspaper, The Miscellany News, announcing the cancelation of Johnson’s scheduled address, some of the student’s complaints against him were documented.

The students opposed Johnson’s speech because he was alleged to have overseen “the construction of inhumane detention facilities” at the border, had perpetrated “war crimes” and “violence on marginalized peoples,” and that if he proceeded to deliver the commencement address despite the objections, the school should “expect student protest and disruption.”

Johnson bows out over student objections

The insider further noted that now, in place of that since-deleted article, The Miscellany News directs readers to the statement put out by Johnson explaining why he withdrew himself from the invitation to deliver the commencement address at Vassar.

“I believe commencements should be joyous, tension-free events for graduates and their families,” Johnson wrote. “In my public life I managed many difficult and contentious issues. In my private life I do not seek to be the object of controversy or speak at a commencement where students will object to me.”

The former secretary then sought to defend his service in the Obama administration by downplaying the enforcement efforts his job had entailed and asserted that “leaders with a sense of humanity are often faced with less than perfect choices, sometimes nothing but ugly choices, but we always try to do the right thing.”

Pushback against the “overly woke response”

Of course, not everybody agrees with the student-led backlash that prompted Johnson’s withdrawal, such as Vassar alum and retired journalist Victoria Balfour, who told Insider, “I think it’s an overly woke response.”

“Johnson is a former cabinet secretary. He grew up in town, and his father was very revered,” she added. “It’s just so petty and such an overreaction. I feel bad for him.”

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