Some alumni of St. John Fisher College have reacted not-so-favorably to the college's selection of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as 2015 commencement speaker. And dozens took to Facebook to either show their support, or to vent.
One alumnus calls Giuliani an "ego-driven politician who is out for his own desires."
An alumna says that if she were graduating this year, she'd boycott the ceremony.
Giuliani will give the keynote address during the college's undergraduate ceremony on Saturday, May 9, and will receive an honorary degree of doctor of laws. Fisher student government leaders say that upset alumni should try to put their personal feelings aside and realize that Giuliani has much to offer the students.
"I was kind of surprised and almost a little saddened by the way some of the alumni reacted originally," says Christopher Genrich, president of the Student Government Association.
Some of the comments on Fisher's Facebook page reference recent remarks Giuliani made about President Barack Obama.
"I do not believe — and I know this is a horrible thing to say — but I do not believe that the president loves America," Giuliani said in widely published remarks made at a private dinner in February.
Giuliani later tried to explain, writing in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, for example, that he "didn't intend to question President Obama's motives or the content of his heart."
Giuliani's popularity hit its zenith in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. But his public image has taken more than a few hits since then, owing to Giuliani's messy personal life, his tendency toward ill-considered remarks, his habit, some say, of exaggerating his post 9/11 role and his mayoral accomplishments, and other factors.
But Genrich and Fisher senior class president Aidan Evans say that even if you don't support Giuliani, the former mayor still has important lessons for Fisher students.
"I would like everybody to keep in mind the Rudy Giuliani that led New York after 9/11, because I think he's a very respectable man in that regard," Evans says.
Students are just excited to have a commencement speaker that they recognize, she says. Fisher has had high-profile speakers before, though, including Pulitzer Prize-winning writers David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Genrich says that Giuliani can teach students about resilience. They'll need some of the strength that Giuliani showed after 9/11 to handle disappointing job searches, he says, and graduate school rejections.
Genrich says that Giuliani's recent remarks about Obama aren't relevant to the school's commencement.
A Fisher spokesperson did not respond to requests for an interview on the Giuliani selection, but did send over the following statement:
"The college selects commencement speakers every year based on a variety of the chosen individual's accomplishments and contributions to their profession. Mayor Giuliani will be speaking about leadership as well as his role in the aftermath of 9/11 — both topics that we believe will resonate with the students and their families."