Barnard College announced Saturday that President Obama will deliver the keynote address at the women’s liberal arts school in New York on May 14.
The announcement comes a day after Obama stepped into the escalating battle over religious-affiliated institutions and contraception, which Democrats have cast as a fight over women’s rights. Republicans have argued that the debate is instead an attack on religious liberty.
“This is an extraordinary honor for Barnard and we are thrilled to welcome President Obama for this important moment in the lives of our graduates and their families,” Barnard President Debora Spar said in a statement. “His commitment to empowering women is so meaningful to our students, who aspire to lead and make their mark on the world. No doubt, the President's words will make this year's Commencement truly unforgettable.”
The invitation to give the commencement address, originally reported by the New York Times, granted a request from the White House to speak at the school. Democrats have raised $1.6 million in the wake of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s incendiary remarks about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke and as Democrats have accused Republicans of being out of touch with women heading into the November election.
According to the Times report, the newspaper’s executive editor, Jill Abramson, had been scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Barnard but that “those plans changed with the call from the White House.”