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