Home » Opinion » Letters to Editor » Letter to the editor: If you choose to protest Rob Portman’s speech, I stand with you

Letter to the editor: If you choose to protest Rob Portman’s speech, I stand with you

Sen. Rob Portman makes remarks as Senate and House Republicans announce their new tax plan in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2017. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

To the editor:

On Sunday, Sen. Rob Portman will come to Ohio State’s campus and deliver the Autumn Commencement address to graduates. This is happening, regardless of his vote for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and his consistent alignment with policies — including the attempted repeal of ObamaCare, and his approval of the proposed tax plan — that would detrimentally impact many of our undergraduate and graduate students.

Many members of the Ohio State community — myself included — called for University President Michael Drake to rescind Portman’s invitation; and to instead acknowledge someone committed to education. I am disappointed in Drake’s decision that the event go as planned.

We are at a turning point. Every day, we are met with stories of violence and fear; Republican initiatives that might hurt us and those we love. But we are not powerless. In 1969, my parents — now 70 years old — were seniors at Stony Brook University, a highly regarded and progressive school where they were both studying to be teachers. Those years were a time of constant protest. When not studying for exams, they were calling for the return of their friends — young men who were fighting a war in Vietnam. Though many of the protests took place at government buildings and in the streets, they also found spaces to recognize their institution’s complicity in government-sanctioned violence. At that time, Stony Brook, with its prestigious science program, was contributing to research for the war effort.  In protest, both of my parents, and hundreds of their peers, opted not to attend their graduation.

With this choice, their absence spoke volumes, their empty chairs a symbol. I understand this might not be an appropriate move for many of you who are so deserving of standing up on that stage. I respect that decision. But I am appealing to Ohio State students and faculty who will be present to voice their disappointment in other ways, whether that be to walk out, or turn their back as he stands to speak. No matter what you choose, I stand in solidarity with you.


Jessie Male

Graduate Teaching Associate, English Department



  1. Keep your political opinions out of the ceremony and show respect for the thousands of students who have worked years for this moment. It is their day as much as it is yours, you have no right to take that away from them by causing a disturbance during the ceremony. If you want to protest, stay away, but to walk out during the ceremony at the price of your fellow graduates is nothing but acting like a spoiled 3 year old who’s not getting their way.

    • Shut up John. You’re an idiot. If a Republican was speaking it would be distasteful, but whatever. But Portman, who has done everything possible to rob these graduates of their futures, deserves the worst treatment possible. Happy graduation idiot!

      • Actually your the idiot Mark. Did I once mention the treatment that Portman deserves? No, and I don’t care. I’m talking about what the graduates deserve, and that is to enjoy the celebration of their achievement without a bunch of spoiled brats disturbing their ceremony.

    • You tell them, John. Kudos to the commenters on here! If you feel a need to stand and turn your back to a speaker, do everyone a favor and just leave instead spoiled B R A T. Our dork of a president actually did something right for a change inviting Senator Portman. I am happy Mr(s) Male was soundly ignored.

  2. A spoiled brat has no convictions. To live in a world where people sit idly by as the ruling class eats away at their basic human rights is the wrong kind of world to live in. Don’t like the protest? As the writer of the letter above stated, the president of OSU made a really poor decision in the selection of the commencement speaker. Point your wrath in that direction.

    • You make a great point Barbra, the President of the OSU did make a poor decision, and the wrath should be pointed at him, not at the 1000s of graduates that want to enjoy the spoils of their years of hard work and NOT have it their ceremony marred by a bunch of whiny protesters. In other words, you got a problem with Portman, I got no problem with that. But find a way to voice that without disrupting a graduation ceremony that belongs to all the graduates, not just a few spoiled brats that are only worried about their own feelings.

  3. I didn’t see anyone walk out, which is as it should be. Looks like someone schooled the spoiled brats. If you don’t like the speaker, stay home in your mother’s basement with your popular culture degree. Otherwise, be respectful of the opinions of others, even when — especially when — they differ from yours.

  4. Jessie, you have nothing of value to teach because you could not have learned much while crusading not to hear a differing opinions. Shame on OSU for employing you.

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