Statement from Jeh Charles Johnson on withdrawing as 2022 Commencement speaker

Courtesy of Taylor Hooper.

I am withdrawing my original acceptance of President Bradley’s invitation to be Vassar’s 2022 commencement speaker.  I believe commencements should be joyous, tension-free events for graduates and their families.  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. I continue to be grateful for all Vassar is doing to honor my late father’s legacy as a lecturer there for 37 years.

Immigration is a difficult and painful issue. In my three years as Secretary of Homeland Security, I visited our southern border numerous times.  During those visits, I often took the time to enter Border Patrol holding stations and speak directly through a translator to the children in our care, to ensure their welfare. As a father, I wanted to take them all home with me; as the Cabinet official responsible for securing our border, I knew I could not.  At the same time, on my watch, the number of deportations from our country went down, the percentage of those deported who were convicted of serious offenses went up, and the number of young people enrolled in DACA went up.  Whether immigration, border security or national security, 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.

Jeh Charles Johnson


  1. Not sure what he is saying about students not wanting him here but if so …Daniel Patrick Moynihan rings a bell to me!

  2. This showing by the class of 2022 reminds me of the William F. Buckley incident of 1980: “The majority of the senior class of Vassar does not desire my company and I must confess, having read specimens of their thought and sentiments, that I do not desire the company of the majority of the senior class at Vassar.”

    • Mr. Buckley also shaded an English professor who wrote a note decrying his selection. Went something like “that such a man is teaching, rather that studying English…”
      Can’t remember the exact quote.

  3. Shame on our Vassar students. It says something frightening about the state of free speech when a decent man who tried to be a faithful servant is forced to withdraw as commencement speaker. In a historic dissenting opinion in United States v. Schwimmer Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote that “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought – not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.” How are we to grow if we will not listen to ideas other than our own?

    • Despicable! And Vassar is allowing this to happen! Just wait until the shoe is on the other foot and they get cancelled! Since when is free speech no longer allowed in this country. Proving once again how woke university’s are!

  4. Shameful. Vassar students have no idea what the real world is like. Their cancel culture childish tantrums won’t work once they graduate. Shame on President Bradley for bowing to this childish bunch. Imagine cancelling a black man who served in the Obama administration for an ACTOR! This is insanity and makes Vassar look terrible

  5. It is truly a shameful display of intolerance @ Vassar…I think President Bradley should step down as this has a direct reflection on the college and I say bring back former president Ferguson!!

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