President Barack Obama will be delivering the commencement address at Arizona State University this evening. But the headline has been that ASU is not going to give him an honorary degree. Instead, they will expand a scholarship program in his name. A scholarship will actually benefit someone, while still honoring the president.
The media are outraged that ASU has given honorary degrees to Erma Bombeck, Hugh Downs, Art Buchwald, and Steve Allen, among others, but says Obama hasn’t done enough to deserve one.
Frankly, I think the outrage is that honorary degrees are ever given to anyone. I am firmly opposed to the custom and think it should be stopped. Honorary degrees demean and diminish the degrees attained by students who actually put in the time, study, and sacrifice to earn their degrees from that university.
Granting honorary degrees willy nilly to anyone for any reason is indefensible. Find another way to honor people, a way that doesn’t diminish the meaning of the degree for those who earned it. A scholarship is a wonderful alternative. At least ASU got that right.