Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump and his senior advisor, blamed "cancel culture" and "viewpoint discrimination" after Wichita State University and WSU Tech canceled her invitation to speak at the virtual commencement ceremony this weekend due to the president's response to the George Floyd protests. Instead, university officials chose WSU Tech practical nursing graduate Rebecca Zinabu to speak to the graduating students. Trump still released her prepared speech on Twitter Friday evening.
WSU invited Trump to speak at the ceremony, but the invitation was suddenly canceled hours later. The commencement plans "have been refocused more centrally on students," Wichita State President Dr. Jay Golden and WSU Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash said in a joint statement. After the ceremony, graduates "will have the option to hear pre-recorded congratulatory messages from more than 30 speakers," the statement noted.
The pressure was put immediately on Wichita State after Trump's invitation was announced. Jennifer Ray, associate professor of photo media, wrote an open letter to the university that went viral on social media and was signed by more than 480 students, faculty and alumni. Ray was "horrified and disgusted" that Trump was invited to speak, reports Kansas.com. Trump "represents her father's administration as one of his closest advisors," Ray wrote, noting that to many how the Trump administration has "come to signify the worst of our country, particularly in its recent actions toward those peacefully protesting against racist police brutality." Ray cited the recent statements from President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary James Mattis criticizing Trump's response to protests of police brutality. The professor said Trump's invitation "sends the message that WSU Tech does not take diversity seriously."
Trump later published her prepared commencement address. "Our nation's campuses should be bastions of free speech. Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia," she tweeted. "Listening to one another is important now more than ever!" In the speech itself, Trump tried to offer an optimistic vision of the future for a group graduating in the midst of an economic downturn.
"Right now I know the economic uncertainty is real, and it's hard on many of you and your families," Trump said, reports The Hill. "Your own blueprint for your future is likely changing due to the pandemic, but I am confident that even if your path is different from the one you imagined, ultimately it can be better than we could ever have planned."
Trump was invited to speak to WSU Tech graduates in the first place because she visited the university's National Center for Aviation Training last fall. She was joined by Sen. Jerry Morand and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Trump also picked Utash to join the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which Trump co-chairs.