Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered a commencement address at the University of Baltimore on Monday, where she encouraged graduates to listen to people with whom they disagree before joining the "chorus of conflict."
Unfortunately, some students and professors didn't hear that advice, because they skipped the ceremony in protest of DeVos.
Addressing recent conflicts on campuses, the secretary encouraged graduates of the school, which primarily serves nontraditional students, to "[embrace] the power of silence."
"We will do well to first listen, study, ponder, then speak to genuinely engage those with whom we disagree," DeVos said in her prepared remarks. "Voices that are quiet at first, grow in strength while those who rush to shout are humbled."
Silence, argued the secretary, is a necessary precursor to expression.
But the audience was incomplete.
Ahead of her speech, a modest protest gathered across the street from the theater. The Baltimore Sun reported that "[s]ome students said they were skipping the ceremony."
Sprinkled throughout the crowd were a handful of University of Baltimore professors, dressed in their academic regalia.
"We don't feel the secretary of education represents the best interests of this college or the students who go to it," said writing professor Marion Winik, who will be skipping the ceremony in protest.
Many students said they were disappointed DeVos will be speaking to them on their graduation day.
The Associated Press reported the protest was comprised of roughly 50 faculty members, LGBT activists, and students. Ahead of DeVos' speech, a petition for the university president to rescind his invitation was circulated, garnering nearly 3,500 signatures.
At a commencement address delivered last spring, students jeered and turned their backs as DeVos spoke. Though she took the stage to loud boos at the University of Baltimore, and some students and one faculty member turned their backs as she spoke, DeVos was at least allowed to deliver her full remarks by students in the audience.
That's the power of well-timed silence in action.