On Monday, 20,000 people were in attendance at the University of Pennsylvania’s annual commencement ceremony. And while the ceremony usually celebrates famous alumni, one name was notably not even mentioned during the entire event: President Donald Trump, who was a graduate of the University in 1968.
Trump was also reportedly not mentioned at last year’s commencement nor the one the year before.
“Penn’s officials have been mostly silent about Trump, perhaps because he is not necessarily beloved on campus,” The Atlantic reported. “When I reached out to Penn, the school declined to discuss Trump.”
“We just don’t comment on individual politicians,” Penn’s vice president of university communications, Stephen MacCarthy, wrote in an email. “We are non-partisan, and try to limit any comments in the political sphere to specific issues that have an impact on the University.”
However, this appears to be a brand new policy, as in the past, the university had political figures such as Republican President Gerald Ford and Democratic Vice President Joe Biden deliver commencement addresses while they were still in office. Republican First Lady Barbara Bush and Democratic First Lady Hillary Clinton also gave commencement addresses for the university.
“Penn’s silence on its most powerful alumnus stands in contrast with how other universities have related to their own presidential (or near-presidential) graduates,” The Atlantic noted. “That it is Penn and not any other Ivy League school now navigating this terrain is additionally awkward—for Penn, perhaps more than its peers, has long had status anxiety.”
Penn’s current president, Amy Gutmann, is said to be a famous political scholar and an expert on political discourse within democracies.
One of the things that does make Penn unique is that its president is a political philosopher, and a giant in her field,” explained Penn Prof. Jonathan Zimmerman. “Most of her work has been about the question of deliberation and discourse in democracy.”
According to the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, Barbara Perry, it’s unclear if the school will continue to ignore the current Commander-in-Chief or one day acknowledge his existence.
“What will [Penn] do?” she asked. “Will they not want to claim him because of all these personal and professional foibles of his?”
The University also did something interesting this year, that’s sure to further infuriate Trump. In the wake of Trump’s perpetual war on the free press, the university invited NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell (class of 1967) to deliver the commencement address.
Mitchell, who is the host of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” never mentioned Trump by name. However, she did allude to the Trump era during her speech.
“Today, we are living through a period that feels equally challenging, and disorienting,” Mitchell said. “But now, the challenges are subtler, even more complex—the social dilemmas affecting race, ethnicity, gender. Problems that new laws can address, but not always fix.”
“But in today’s politics, facts are described as ‘alternative,’ and truths are often relative,” Mitchell noted. “So, my next lesson: Be open-minded. Never stop learning.”
You can watch Mitchell’s full commencement speech here:
When you consider Trump’s long history of ignorance, which includes the fact that he doesn’t like to read, it’s no surprise that any university affiliated with Trump would want to keep that fact as quiet as possible both out of shame and the need to preserve its reputation as a prestigious higher learning institution.
Hopefully, in 2020, voters will also begin the process of erasing Trump’s stain on America’s reputation and start the process of rebuilding all the progress Trump has managed to tear down.
Featured image via YouTube.