U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she has “respect” for the students of Bethune-Cookman University who booed her Wednesday during her commencement speech at the historically black university.
“One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to conserve with and learn from those whom we disagree,” DeVos said in statement released Wednesday evening. “I have respect for all those who attended, including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me.
“While we may share differing points of view, my visit and dialogue with student leaves me encouraged and committed to supporting [historically black colleges and universities],” the Education Secretary added.
The students’ jeers during DeVos’ speech got so loud at times that her voice was drowned out, and the university president was forced to come onto the stage in her defense.
DeVos’ appointment as commencement speaker sparked controversy last week, as Bethune-Cookman students and alumni lambasted her and the Trump Administration’s rhetoric on historically black colleges and universities since taking office.
DeVos began her speech with an acceptance of the right to respectfully disagree with one another as some students turned their backs to her.
“We can focus on differences that might divide us or we can choose to listen, be receptive and learn from other experiences and perspectives,” DeVos said. “In my life, I have endeavored to do the latter.”