Condi Rice Backs Out of Rutgers Commencement Address

The former Secretary of State declined the invitation Saturday, saying her presence would serve as a distraction at a “very special time.”

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and current Augusta National Member, attends the 2014 Par 3 Contest prior to the start of the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2014 in Augusta, Georgia.

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Following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined an invitation Saturday to deliver the commencement address at Rutgers University, the Associated Press reports.

In a statement, she told Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she was declining the invitation because she did not want her presence to disrupt the ceremony, the AP says.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families," Rice said, according to the news site. "Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time."

Rice, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security advisor, was slated to speak at the May 18 ceremony. The school's board of governors had voted to pay her $35,000 and had planned to give her an honorary doctorate, the AP says.

Barchi said that while Rutgers stood behind its decision to extend Rice the invitation, officials respected her decision.

“Now is the time to focus on our commencement, a day to celebrate the accomplishments and promising futures of our graduates," Barchi said.

Read more at the Huffington Post.