In advance of a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Palm Beach GOP Chairman Michael Barnett criticized plans by the NAACP to protest the visit. “Secretary DeVos’ visit to Bethune-Cookman further demonstrates the Trump administration’s commitment to building relationships with and strengthening America’s historically black educational institutions,” read a statement from Barnett. Barnett is a black man. Bethune-Cookman is an historically-black institution of higher learning.
On Monday, the Florida NAACP denounced the university’s invitation to DeVos to speak at the Daytona Beach graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, calling it a “slap in the face to minorities, women and all communities of color.” On graduation day, there were student protesters on hand at the ceremony who silently turned their backs on DeVos while she spoke. Others issued jeers or chanted slogans in an apparent attempt to silence DeVos. DeVos struggled to be heard and cut her speech from the expected 60 minutes to 20. University president Edison Jackson chided the students, demanding that they respect the right to free speech.
Republican Glo Smith, a black woman who ran for Congress in 2016, said: she was disappointed to see the NAACP’s stance. She said that the historic organization’s condemnation of Bethune-Cookman University was “nothing more than petty politics."
Sean Jackson, chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida called out NAACP for its opposition to charter schools. He praised DeVos as a "fighter for our nation’s children and parents,” for her advocacy of indendepent and charter schools.
BlacPac founder George Farrell applauded Bethune-Cookman University's invitation to DeVos.