Jeh Johnson Withdraws As USC Law Graduation Speaker After Protests

As many of you know, I have long lamented the rising intolerance shown at colleges and universities over free speech. Both faculty and students now regularly fight to prevent people from speaking rather than allow a diverse array of views and experiences on campuses. Fortunately, most law schools have sufficient free speech advocates to counter such moves. However, this week the University of Southern California Law School joined this ignoble list when the school pushed Jeh Johnson, the former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security, to withdraw as the commencement speaker. Johnson was a wonderful choice for the graduation and could share not just his incredible career but his powerful personal story with the law students. Instead, he was told by Dean Andrew Guzman that there were “concerns” about his appearance.

A public letter to Guzman was posted from “the two Chicano members” of the law faculty, Daria Roithmayr and David Cruz. Professors Roithmayr and Cruz objected to the invitation over immigration policies. They declared that simply allowing Johnson to speak a graduation “normalizes illegal state violence” and “legitimates” the “fundamental betrayal of core values.” They further denounced Johnson as displaying a “morally repugnant willingness to use those who are most vulnerable among us as means to an end.”

Rather than state such opposing views, the professors wanted to silence Johnson because he does not share their view of past federal policies and practices. They succeeded and in so doing further “legitimated” the use of protests to stop opposing views and experiences from being shared.

Above the Law posted the letter from Guzman to the law school:

I informed Secretary Johnson that some faculty and students have raised concerns about the immigration policies of the Obama Administration and, therefore, about having him as our commencement speaker. Secretary Johnson shared with me that he believes that graduations should be free of tension and political controversy and for this reason has decided not to speak.

Free speech does not mean tension-free speech. However, by canceling the speech, the heckler’s veto has once again prevailed at an institution of higher education.

Johnson is a New Yorker who witnessed the 9-11 attacks on his birthday and often speaks of that experience. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York and was then the General Counsel for the Air Force. He was the first African American partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — one of the nation’s top law firms. He is a fellow at the American College of Trial Lawyers. He later became Homeland Security Secretary during a critical period for that Department under President Obama.

I cannot think of a more worthy speaker but “concerns” by some students led Guzman to reach out to get him to reconsider. The question is whether opposing “concerns” from conservatives would have the same determinative impact. If conservatives raises “concerns” over lack immigration enforcement or open borders advocates, would the school reach out to see if the speaker might withdraw? How about a pro-life concern over a pro-choose speaker? What speakers would satisfy the concern-free speaker criteria?

The alternative is to say that the law school would hear from one of the most celebrated leaders in the legal field and protesters can voice their own views outside of the event. That is the wonderful thing about free speech. Everyone can speak freely. That’s unless you are asked to speak at USC Law School when “concerns” are raised.

43 thoughts on “Jeh Johnson Withdraws As USC Law Graduation Speaker After Protests”

  1. What could possibly be the title of his presentation that would be of any interest to Americans:

    “My Success Through Affirmative Action Privilege?”

  2. Congress shall make no law . . . [edit] . . . abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    So, in order to exercise our right to assemble, we must do so peaceably. No problem. Likewise, in order to petition our Government for a redress of grievances, we might send a public letter (petition) to the Dean of our State University’s Law School expressing “concerns” about a graduation speaker who used to be a cabinet-level Secretary of an agency of our federal Government that took actions that at least the petitioners found grievous. So far, so good.

    But what if the Dean accedes to the petitioners’ request to disinvite the speaker? Does that qualify as a redress of grievance? Or is that a fresh grievance against the speaker? Does The First Amendment require the Dean of that State University’s Law School to refrain from redressing the petitioners’ grievance against the invited speaker who who used to be a cabinet-level Secretary of an agency of our federal Government that took actions that at least the petitioners found to be grievous?

    Contributed by The L4D–I Refuse To Answer My Own Questions–Project

    1. Contributed by The L4D–I Refuse To Answer My Own Questions–Project

      L4D is a TROLL’s troll.

      In two online studies (total N = 1215), respondents completed personality inventories and a survey of their Internet commenting styles. Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online comment- ing frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

      Buckels, E. E., et al. Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences (2014),

      1. Recommended reading for the imposter Be-A-Straw-Man:

        What Are the Spiritual Exercises? – Ignatian Spirituality

        Learn about this retreat method developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. … The Spiritual Exercises grew out of Ignatius Loyola’s personal experience as a man …

        You are in spiritual arrears. You spend so much time posting incendiary tripe on this blawg that you cannot possibly be paid in full on your Ignatian Spirituality dues. Time for you to find out whose good name you are sullying and besmirching with your derelict diatribes.

        Contributed by The L4D Everybody’s Got Fake Estovir’s Number By Now Project

        1. Ignatian Spirituality

          Since Catholicism has been injected into this thread by L4D, let us consider the words of Christ to His Apostles in today’s Gospel Reading, 3rd Sunday of Easter

          Gospel of St John 21:1-19

          At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
          He revealed himself in this way.
          Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
          Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
          Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
          Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
          They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
          So they went out and got into the boat,
          but that night they caught nothing.
          When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
          but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
          Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
          They answered him, “No.”
          So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
          and you will find something.”
          So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
          because of the number of fish.
          So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
          When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
          he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
          and jumped into the sea.
          The other disciples came in the boat,
          for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
          dragging the net with the fish.
          When they climbed out on shore,
          they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
          Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
          So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
          full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
          Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
          Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
          And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
          because they realized it was the Lord.
          Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
          and in like manner the fish.
          This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
          after being raised from the dead.
          When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
          “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
          Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
          Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
          He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
          “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
          Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
          Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
          Jesus said to him the third time,
          “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
          Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
          “Do you love me?” and he said to him,
          “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
          Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
          Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
          you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
          but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
          and someone else will dress you
          and lead you where you do not want to go.”
          He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
          And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

          1. Jesuit theologian, Fr Michael Simone, SJ, has the following reflection on the above reading.


            Christ calls all of us to discipleship. Are we listening?

            In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the Twelve receive a second call to discipleship. John crafts a narrative that refers back to accounts early in his Gospel of the disciples’ first call, but this time there’s a twist. Early in their discipleship, the Twelve were servants of Jesus’ mission. Now, after the resurrection, they have become Jesus’ friends, and they take up Jesus’ mission as their own.

            ‘And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”’ (Jn 21:19)
            Third Sunday of Easter (C)
            Acts 5:27-41, Ps 30, Rev 5:11-14, Jn 21:1-19
            How have you served Christ’s mission?
            How have you taken it up as your own?
            In what way to do you see yourself as a friend of the risen Christ?

            Modern readers might not understand the motifs that indicate the disciples’ role as Jesus’ servants. They use a title of respect for Jesus, “rabbi” (Jn 1:38). Although we usually translate this word as “teacher,” the term literally means “my great one.” They also go to his house and stay with him (Jn 1:39), like students everywhere in the Greco-Roman world who served a teacher and his household to pay for their education. The expression “Follow me,” with which Jesus calls Philip, also connoted a kind of student-service. In addition to modeling their life after their teacher’s example, as we continue to do today, disciples also followed their teacher literally on journeys, providing protection, companionship and strength for whatever burdens needed to be carried.

            Although this service undoubtedly had moments of drudgery, it also contained moments of real excitement. One should not forget that the Twelve were likely very young men when Jesus first called them. Some of Jesus’ fame likely reflected onto them as they visited towns to prepare for Jesus’ arrival (Lk 10:1) or visited them on their own in his stead (Mk 6:7-13) or traveled to Jerusalem to make preparations for Passover (Lk 22:7-13). The disciples were so well known that a slave girl in a high priest’s household easily recognized Peter after Jesus’ arrest, even though he had been in Jerusalem less than a week. The disciples may have worked as Jesus’ servants, but in return they received not only an education but notoriety and adventure as well.

            This all changes at the Last Supper. Jesus promises that they will do even greater things than he did (Jn 14:12) because they are his servants no longer, but now friends (Jn 15:15). In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the risen Christ meets the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Although the setting is the same as Jesus’ first call of the disciples, the invitation is now different.

            Jesus simply asks, “Do you love me?”

            Soon, after the ascension, they will go on mission without his bodily presence but inspired by his Spirit, which remains with them as the gift Jesus promised. This gift confirms their friendship: They will know everything about the man they loved and will be able to act as he did.

            This transition from servant to friend continues to occur in the lives of Christ’s followers. Many of us remember when discipleship first became exciting for us. Perhaps a retreat, a charismatic teacher or a profound spiritual encounter communicated Christ’s invitation: “Follow me.” Such service can be satisfying and exciting even on its own, but as the commitment grows deeper, many hear Christ call again, this time with the question “Do you love me?” With their renewed yes, Christ’s friends take up his mission with his own Spirit as they go forth to feed his sheep.


            1. I confess: I asked for it. But that’s all that I confess. Nothing more than that.

              Contributed by The L4D–I Really Should’ve Known Better–Project

  3. This is the trend in academia. Universities are not teaching critical thinking or the robust debate of ideas. Rather, they are protecting students from other points of views. Political madrasas.

    At some point, we need to investigate whether any of these institutions should receive federal funding. I also believe that NPR should lose that 2% federal funding they receive. It is unfair that the federal government should give taxpayer money to a Democrat organization, and the NPR has devolved into exactly that. So have most universities.

    If they discriminate against a political viewpoint, then they should not receive federal funds.

  4. Not one of Jeh Johnsons biggest fans, but I would never stop him from speaking his mind. He has a right to be heard.

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