Important Update Regarding Vassar College’s 158th Commencement Speaker

February 14, 2022


“I am withdrawing my original acceptance of President Bradley’s invitation to be Vassar’s 2022 commencement speaker. I believe commencements should be joyous, tension-free events for graduates and their families. In my public life I managed many difficult and contentious issues. In my private life I do not seek to be the object of controversy or speak at a commencement where students will object to me. I continue to be grateful for all Vassar is doing to honor my late father’s legacy as a lecturer there for 37 years. 

Immigration is a difficult and painful issue. In my three years as Secretary of Homeland Security, I visited our southern border numerous times. During those visits, I often took the time to enter Border Patrol holding stations and speak directly through a translator to the children in our care, to ensure their welfare. As a father, I wanted to take them all home with me; as the Cabinet official responsible for securing our border, I knew I could not. At the same time, on my watch, the number of deportations from our country went down, the percentage of those deported who were convicted of serious offenses went up, and the number of young people enrolled in DACA went up. Whether immigration, border security or national security, leaders with a sense of humanity are often faced with less than perfect choices, sometimes nothing but ugly choices, but we always try to do the right thing.” 

Jeh Charles Johnson



Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley today confirmed that Jeh Charles Johnson has withdrawn as speaker for the Class of 2022’s Commencement Exercises.

“Jeh Johnson expressed his feeling that Commencement should be a time of celebration, and did not want his address to bring contention to what he feels should be a joyous occasion,” said Bradley. “I respect his decision, and thank him for thinking so deeply about our students and community.”

“While I continue to believe that engaging in discussion about topics about which we disagree is essential to learning, I recognize that Commencement is not always the right setting for those, sometimes difficult, conversations,” Bradley added.

Bradley confirmed that Commencement is an event of the Office of the President, and that the selection of speakers is made by the president, with input from senior officers and others.

A new speaker will be announced shortly.