Obama Jokes About Honorary Degree Controversy

May 14, 2009

President Obama gave the commencement address at Arizona State University Wednesday night and joked about the controversy over the university's decision not to award him an honorary degree. While honorary degrees are commonly given to commencement speakers -- most of whom have never achieved something on par with, for example, being elected president of the United States -- Arizona State officials said that they believed Obama had not yet completed a "body of work" worthy of the honor. In his remarks, Obama mixed some jokes about the flap with serious thoughts about not resting on one's laurels. “I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t achieved enough in my life.... First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home," he said, according to an account in The New York Times. And while calling the controversy “much ado about nothing," he also quipped that “President [Michael] Crow and the board of regents will soon learn about being audited by the IRS." More seriously, he said that “I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to confirm that one’s title, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one’s life has been led — and that no matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.” Barbs have continued to be aimed at Arizona State over its refusal to offer the honorary degree. This week, "The Daily Show" examined the issue.

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