Education

Helen Thomas and What Not to Say Before a Commencement Speech

By Elizabeth Rich — June 07, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Former (as of a few hours ago) White House correspondent Helen Thomas for Hearst publications was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Walt Whitman High School, in suburban Maryland, a week from today, but the school has rethought its decision, according to a number of sources, including the Washington Post.

Thomas’ offensive comments about Israelis, following the country’s attack on the Turkish flotilla—"[They] should get the hell out of Palestine.” "[They] should go home [to Poland, to Germany, and America, and everywhere else.]"—which she shared with a rabbi caused enough of a stink that not only did former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who is Jewish, step forward to condemn her remarks, but the White House Correspondents’ Association considered stripping the close-to 90-year-old Thomas of her front-row press seat this morning. She announced her retirement before the White House essentially forced her to.

Walt Whitman High School’s website has no information about the speaking cancellation, but the Montgomery County Daily blog (whose editor is running for a county seat and, coincidentally got the principal’s name wrong) has a couple of quotes from the school and a parent. (The blog reports there was also a student campaign against her appearance brewing on Facebook.)

According to the blog, Dr. Alan Goodwin, Whitman’s principal, spoke to Thomas’ niece. “We had a mutual understanding about her not coming.”

In an interview, Whitman parent Raisa Slepoy said, "I don't know why anybody would ask a person like that to speak at a commencement ceremony . . . especially where there's a pretty large Jewish population." If Thomas had appeared, Slepoy said, there would "be a lot of people booing her off the stage. . . . It would be an embarrassment." The remarks have "already stirred up the community quite a bit," Slepoy said, bringing up "bad feelings." Germany, she said, is not a Jewish homeland. If Thomas had appeared, Slepoy said, there would "be a lot of people booing her off the stage. . . . It would be an embarrassment."

Meanwhile, Fox News is calling for everyone to give the veteran journalist a break.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Hundreds of Conn. Bus Drivers Threaten to Walk Off the Job Over Vaccine Mandate
More than 200 school bus drivers could walk off the job in response to a vaccination mandate that goes into effect Monday.
1 min read
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk.
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk. <br/>
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
Education Briefly Stated: September 22, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)