Janet Napolitano Heckled at Commencement Speech


The National Guard

'Tis the season for boycotting commencement speakers. The latest mover-and-shaker to get the cold shoulder from the Class of 2014 is former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

The student government of Laney College, a community college in California, first "approved a resolution calling for Napolitano," who is currently the head honcho of the University of California system, "to be disinvited." She came anyway and was poorly received, and not only by students.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Booing and at one point turning their backs on her, dozens of students, faculty and supporters in the audience objected to remarks by the former chief of Homeland Security, who has been faulted for her stance on immigration issues during her time with the Obama administration. Many pumped their fists as a gesture of defiance.

"No one could hear her as she was speaking, the whole time," said Yvette Felarca, one of the organizers of the protest. "It was a very proud day for Oakland—we made it clear that she was not welcome at Laney College. It was an insult, it never should have happened."

This incident has been marked with conspicuous silence compared to other boycotts of high-profile speakers like Bush-era Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde. This graduation season there's been debate about whether the kids are vigorously exercising their own free speech or if they're just childishly plugging their ears from new ideas. Perhaps people aren't talking about Napolitano because they're already jaded to the commencement debate. Or perhaps people have far less sympathy when the person being snubbed has deported a record number of immigrants, suggested that veterans pose a right-wing terror threat to the U.S., and instituted "enhanced pat downs" of the genitals of air travelers. 

NEXT: Soda Tax Proposal Falls Flat in Illinois

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If she was already disinvited, why did the university let her near the podium?

    1. The student government disinvited her. They don’t actually have any power or influence over such decisions.

  2. Booing and at one point turning their backs on her…

    Any victory, no matter how small, is welcome.

    I just want to see the look of incomprehension on her face.

    1. Nicolae Ceau?escu probably had the same look as the mob invaded his palace.

  3. I mean, fuck Janet Napolitano and all, but these people are awfully proud about not listening to someone.

    1. When did it become de rigueur to invite controversial speakers to these events? All of my graduations involved very dull, noncontroversial speakers. Acknowledging that there are always dissenters, even so.

      1. Mine were: HS: Erskine Bowles UG: Don’t remember LS: Lindsey Graham. They were all alumni though, so it made sense.

        1. And all your schools could come up with were politicians? Did they not have any alumni who had gone on to actually be successful and decent human beings?

      2. Jonny Moseley. He did a couple of moves on stage, which looked stupid without skis.

      3. Bill Clinton.

      4. Mine was Sam Donaldson for UG. I skipped commencement for GS.

  4. We’re producing a generation of poorly-educated screwheads who can’t cook a meal or change their own oil but can wear ironic glasses like a champ while debating the horrors of cisgender norms in a sharing economy.

    I’ll be glad to be moldering in my grave by the time they get in charge and turn this country into Paradise as envisioned by a Berkeley Women’s Studies adjunct professor.

    1. Reality will intrude. It always does.

  5. Perhaps people aren’t talking about Napolitano because they’re already jaded to the commencement debate.

    Or… maybe she’s a Democrat?

    1. Or… maybe she’s a Democrat?


      What sort of press would dare report she was booed and protested?

  6. I know I’ll look like a hypocrite the next time this happens to somebody I don’t despise, but in this case, that awful woman got just what she deserved.

    Now, if only people could work up the courage to be so mockingly dismissive of the entire Department of Homeland Security…

  7. There is a difference between being protested because of your ideas, and being protested because of your actions while in a position of power.

  8. It was a very proud day for Oakland

    These people seem compelled to make me hate them.

    I despise Janet Napolitano, and not many things would please me more than seeing footage of her speaking as the entire audience filed disinterestedly out of the graduation ceremony.

    But “a proud day for Oakland”?

    1. Oakland doesn’t really have a lot to be proud of.

      1. A’s in first…other than that?????

  9. So, if I’m reading this right, the young millennials heckled her over immigration reform? That’s it? Not because of the PATRIOT act, not because of the TSA or any of the crazy shit the the DHS does to this country, but immigration reform.


    So, because I’m a universally positive person, I see this as an opportunity for libertarianism. If we can make every issue about the size and scope of government relate in some way to immigration reform, we can finally sweep up some of that sweet millennial vote?

    1. Prog millenials are down with the spying, rape-scanning and drone-murdering. They’re all about the 1%, income inequality, and privilege now.

      Civil liberties are irrelevant except as they play into a racial angle.

  10. What happened to the good old days when graduates were too hungover to even notice the commencement speaker? I couldn’t tell who spoke at my graduation or what was said.

  11. The record number of deportations thing is a myth. They counted new actions as deportations without actually doing more.

    So, their entire reason for protesting was a lie. Yep, seems like a prog way to do things.

  12. Perhaps people aren’t talking about Napolitano because they’re already jaded to the commencement debate.

    Or it could be because, unlike the other commencement speakers who withdrew and shut up, Napolitano didn’t acquiesce to the peanut gallery and showed up anyway. Most of the debate in the other cases surrounded the heckler’s veto. There was no heckler’s veto here because Napolitano, for whatever else she may be, wasn’t too nutless to show up and deal with the controversy, such as it was.

    1. What if they confused Janet Napolitano with Andrew Napolitano? What if they thought they were heckling a republican? What if the hecklers were wrong? What if we are all wrong? What if we’re really right, i.e. wrong about being wrong?

  13. What if they confused Janet Napolitano with Andrew Napolitano? What if they thought they were heckling a republican? What if the hecklers were wrong? What if we are all wrong? What if we’re really right, i.e. wrong about being wrong?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.