EDITOR’S NOTE: Joan Minor-Grayson, a Shocker alumna, originally wrote this letter to associate professor Jennifer Ray in response to her open letter that said WSU’s reputation was “at stake” if Ivanka Trump spoke at WSU Tech’s virtual commencement ceremony earlier this month. While Ivanka Trump ultimately was not a keynote speaker, Minor-Grayson later submitted her letter to The Sunflower.
Dear Professor Ray:
My name is Joan Minor-Grayson (Joan Huff, WSU class of 1971). I am writing in hopes that my email is one of many in an avalanche of support you’ve received opposing Ivanka Trump as the Commencement Speaker for WSU Tech.
I am an African-American woman who attended Wichita State University from 1966 to 1971. I whole-heartedly commend and support the position that Ms. Trump should not have given the commencement address at WSU Tech. I regret that even now, so many decades later, people of good will who value justice and fairness, still have to lift their voices against such proposals.
Ivanka Trump, like every other American, is absolutely entitled to free speech under the Constitution. However, at a time when she is so closely linked as senior advisor to an administration bent on denying this same privilege to others, her giving the keynote address anywhere sends the wrong message.
To be fair, I did listen to Ms. Trump’s youtube presentation, the one she apparently prepared in advance of knowing she would not be giving the keynote address. At no point in her presentation did she mention any other challenges except the pandemic. I found this unbelievable when obviously there are other, equally critical events happening in our country right now. It suggests to me that Ms. Trump is not sufficiently flexible to ‘switch up’ and update her comments. So again, definitely not the appropriate person to address technical graduates who, as our current and future workforce, will need the flexibility to “turn on a dime”, in addition to being technically competent. I write as a former Assistant Dean of Human Resources at Stanford University.
I am deeply saddened that it appears not much has changed since I attended WSU, when African-American athletes took a stand and threatened a boycott until the University appointed its first African-American cheerleader, who happened to be me.
I currently reside in Paris, France. Even here, recent incidents in America have sparked rallies demanding racial fairness. These rallies were not only in support of justice for George Floyd, but also for Adama Traore, a black man who died here under similar circumstances.
Courage has always required taking a stand. Many others before you have done this and hopefully there will be many others after you, continuing to stand on the right side of history.
To summarize, I stand with you. I applaud your efforts and all those others who opposed Ms. Trump as the keynote speaker. I trust you will remain encouraged, not only today, but tomorrow and always.