This is old news around town, but basically due to classism, and probably a nice healthy dose of sexism and racism, some Tulane students and their parents started a petition to block Hoda Kotb as their commencement speaker because they felt they “deserve better.” The petition has since been removed from the internets. Here is the text of it:
We all feel cheated. Given the amount of money, work, and passion we have poured into our educational careers at Tulane, we think we deserve better than this. Hoda Kotb is hardly an inspirational figure, and despite the fact that she has had a successful career in journalism, we feel that we deserve a more recognizable and more prominent figure than her. Commencement speeches are supposed to inspire students before they are thrown into the real world. Hoda Kotb spends her time sipping wine on talk shows, and discussing which dog breed is trendiest in 2016. There’s hardly anything inspirational about that. This is an embarassment not only to the entire class of 2016, but also to the school as a whole.
Way to fucking belittle someone, huh? She just sits there “sipping wine” - she’s just successful for no reason, I guess! Bonus: “embarrassment” was spelled incorrectly in this petition. I normally wouldn’t snark about this, because I find that also to be classist, except the context is...incredible.
It’s true that Tulane tends to have A-List graduation speakers; strange that Hoda Kotb might not be included in that group. Tulane tends to find speakers that have a New Orleans connection - which she does have. Let’s take a look at Ms. Kotb:
- Award-winning journalist who has reported on 9/11, Israel/Palestine conflict. Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina
- Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina was among the most watched around the nation.
- Best-selling author.
- Breast cancer survivor.
- Had a very tough climb to success in which she experienced constant rejection and drove all over the country trying to get a job. What a lazy little housewife, amirite?
Seems like if anyone had given one shit about this, they could have googled her for half a second and found out that she, indeed, does fit the mold for a pretty damn good commencement speaker. I wonder why they didn’t! Could it be:
- They didn’t take her seriously as a professional because she is a woman?
- They didn’t take her seriously as a professional because she is a woman of color?
- They didn’t take her seriously as a professional because she is a woman of color who is best known for television programming geared toward women?
- All of the above?
Luckily, Tulane shot this down (it was, of course, a small but vocal minority of students). Here is an excerpt from a scathing response (autoplay video!) written by a former colleague of Ms. Kotb:
Here’s what you don’t know. When Hoda was in New Orleans and covered a story about some beautiful underprivileged children living in the Desire Housing Development, she didn’t just shed much-needed light on their plight, she befriended them. She forged a relationship with them, quietly mentored them, and on Christmas Eve, I remember walking to their home with presents she had wrapped for them. She left them on the doorstep. The doorstep. When assigned a story to cover the violence in the early 90’s, she didn’t talk stats, she found the people most impacted by them. She spent hours with the family in the dark, in their home amid the not-too-distant gunfire. And when the news was over, she went back to that home and spent the rest of the night there, learning from them, laughing with them, fearing for them.
Hoda, you can come sip wine with me when you are in town and I will think you’re inspirational for that alone.