Bob Kerrey, the Democrat whose Creighton University commencement address got derailed in the spring, will make another run at a speech to the Bluejays in October.
Nebraska Republican Party leadership last spring opposed a Kerrey commencement speech, largely because of his position in support of abortion rights. Kerrey backed out, saying he didn’t want to distract from the graduates. Creighton subbed in Bluejay alum and NBA player Kyle Korver.
The Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, president of Creighton, said at the time that Kerrey would speak in October at the Creighton Presidential Lecture Series.
Hendrickson said in a statement last week that he was delighted that Kerrey would speak at his university. “Sen. Kerrey is well-positioned to engage our campus in an interesting and productive conversation about diplomacy, business, education and leadership,” he said.
Kerrey, 75, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator, said he believed that Nebraska’s Republicans are “cooling their jets at the moment” after conflict with one of their own, State Sen. John McCollister of Omaha. McCollister this month said President Donald Trump and some in the Republican Party are “enabling white supremacy.”
The executive director of the Nebraska GOP, Ryan Hamilton, responded by saying McCollister should consider changing political parties.
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Kerrey said he knows McCollister and feels sorry that he has taken heat for his observation. “I did speak to him and expressed sympathy,” Kerrey said. “He’s a sympathetic, decent human being, unlike me.”
Hamilton said there was no concern over Kerrey’s appearance in October. The commencement address typically comes with an honorary degree, robes and recognition before the graduating class, Hamilton said.
This speech evidently will not come with those frills. “I don’t have anything to say about that,” Hamilton said of the Kerrey appearance in October.
Kerrey will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at Creighton’s Harper Center. There will be more information about admission to the event in the near future.
Hamilton said Kerrey’s assumption about the McCollister matter being all-consuming is wrong. “We have our hands full with the State Fair, not John McCollister,” he said.
Kerrey, managing director of a small family bank in New York, served as president of the New School in New York from 2001 to 2010. He said he anticipated no compensation for the Creighton appearance, including travel expenses.
He said he expected, in fact, to donate money to Creighton in the near future. His son, Ben, a Cincinnati physician, received his bachelor’s degree at Creighton.
“I think Creighton is one of the great independent colleges in America,” Kerrey said Friday. “And I have great admiration for what Creighton does.”
Kerrey received a Medal of Honor for his military service in the Vietnam War, during which he lost part of a leg.
He joked that Creighton has made “the mistaken conclusion that I may have something interesting to say to the students.”
He said seriously that he expected to speak on the “power and importance of dissent.” One reason he loves America, he said, is because dissent is protected.