The University of Denver recently announced that it is scrapping its plans to present George W. Bush with the “Improving the Human Condition Award” at the 16th annual Korbel Dinner in September.
The alteration came in the wake of protests by DU students and faculty who were appalled by the notion of presenting the former president with a humanitarian award. An online petition drafted by a 2012 graduate of the university’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies urged the school to “choose an alternative recipient” who “better represents a humanitarian spirit, a commitment to human rights and human dignity, and whose contributions and leadership have truly resulted in positive change.” The petition received nearly 1,500 signatures.
A group of 20 or so faculty members of the graduate school also issued a letter to university officials last week declaring that they were “shocked, disappointed and embarrassed” that the award would be given to, in the words of Korbel professor Alan Gilbert, “an unrepentant war criminal who violated the convention against torture.”
In the wake of these demands, the university decided that Bush will still be the keynote speaker at the fundraising event, though he will not be receiving the award previously bestowed on prominent public figures such as Condoleezza Rice, George Casey, and Madeleine Albright.
The September 9 Korbel Dinner invitation now reads:
President George W. Bush
43rd President of the United States of America
Michael J. Long
Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer
of Arrow Electronics, Inc.
Recipient of the University of Denver’s
International Bridge Builders Award
Some honor. The best that can be said for the University of Denver is that it did not rescind its invitation to Bush in order to appease his critics. “George W. Bush is the gift that keeps on giving to left-leaning college faculty intent on proclaiming their moral superiority,” writes Vincent Carroll at the Denver Post, and this is just the latest example.
Carroll also questions what the reaction would have been to a Korbel decision to honor Barack Obama. Would there be a “collective protest” against “honoring a man whose drone warfare in Pakistan, absent almost any legal restraint, regularly kills innocent people” or “who has authorized force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo”? The very idea of such an outcry against President Obama is “almost inconceivable,” he states.
The anti-Bush fervor, in addition to being highly partisan, ignores the true humanitarianism of the former president’s efforts in Africa. Even during Preisdent Obama’s trip to Africa last week, many Africans were vocal about their love for Bush; his private ventures, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, and the programs he started while in office, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, have made a real difference for millions of people. (For the record, President Obama’s most recent budget proposal cuts funding for PEPFAR from $4.24 billion to $4 billion, according to the New York Times.)
The University of Denver is still deciding what name they will attach to the award that George W. Bush will be given at the Korbel Dinner for his service to our country and his work in Africa. Until then, there is a noticeable blank space in the event program that dishonors the man being honored.