Honorary Degrees and Public Relations

Well, I guess the administrative pooh-bahs at Arizona State University are feeling a little better today. Their self-inflicted public relations fiasco is behind them. And President Obama actually gave an inspiring commencement address, promoting public service. That should resonate with grads. Does anybody really want to grow up these days and be a Wizard of Wall Street or Captain of Industry? Nah.

For ASU, this could have been an excellent story from beginning to end. Obama’s first commencement talk as president. An excellent speaker who really does have a message about values, integrity and striving to succeed. And so on.

But no. The university decided early on that the Prez wasn’t going to receive an honorary degree — unlike others in prior years — because he, according to a Washington Post article, had not established a “body of work” that would qualify him for the degree. LOL. Wonder what PR asshat had to deliver that statement?

Oh well. Lesson learned for every organization: Give a little thought to things before making statements and getting locked into policies that you are not going to be able to defend.

Although, this story did generate plenty of publicity for the university. You know. The kind that money generally can’t buy. Even Jon Stewart got into the fray. See — “Daily Show Goes To ASU To Find Out Why They Snubbed Obama.”

St. Louis University had better luck a few years ago when it invited Yogi Berra to address the soon-to-be grads and awarded him an honorary degree. Yogi opined:

“You’ll make some wrong mistakes along the way, but only the wrong survive. Never put off until tomorrow what you can’t do today. Denial isn’t just a river in Europe.

“Strive for success and remember you won’t get what you want unless you want what you get. Some will choose a different path. If they don’t want to come along, you can’t stop them. Remember, none are so kind as those who will not see.

“Keep the faith and follow the Commandments: Do not covet thy neighbor’s wife, unless she has nothing else to wear. Treat others before you treat yourself. As Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘The only thing you have to fear is beer itself.’

Good advice and applicable to the ASU situation.

“You’ll make some mistakes along the way, but only the wrong survive.”


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