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Protesters briefly disrupt Duke commencement speaker Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld speaking during Duke University's graduation ceremony. Associated Press/Photo by Jared Lazarus, Duke University

Protesters briefly disrupt Duke commencement speaker Jerry Seinfeld

A few dozen Pro-Palestinian demonstrators briefly disrupted a ceremony for 7,000 graduates at Duke University on Sunday. A video posted to social media showed two small groups of demonstrators walking away during the introduction of Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian known for his eponymous 90s sitcom. Duke University’s live stream of the event captured sounds of boos and catcalls, followed by supportive chants of Seinfeld’s name.

Why did the demonstrators walk out? Seinfeld has publicly supported Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack that left roughly 1,200 Israelis dead and another 250 taken as hostages. Days after the attack, he joined more than 700 other celebrities, including actors Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, who signed an open letter condemning Hamas and expressing support for the Jewish state. In December, he traveled to Israel to meet with representatives of the families of those taken hostage, according to a statement by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. Based in Tel Aviv, the forum is a volunteer-based organization that advocates for the hostages.

How has the school responded? Duke administrators understood the depth of the community’s feelings, university spokesman Frank Tramble said in a statement to WORLD. He said administrators respected students’ rights to express their views peacefully without preventing graduates and their families from celebrating their achievements.

What did Seinfeld say in his speech? Seinfeld did not address the demonstration. Instead, he jokingly told the graduates that they’d already been attending Duke for four years, and it was time for them to leave. He cited his roots as a Jew growing up in Brooklyn as the catalyst for his desire to go into standup comedy. The popular maxim, “follow your passion,” is overrated, and graduates should do something they’re skilled at, he said. Graduates were told to make the most of the privilege of attending Duke. Seinfeld closed by urging graduates not to lose their sense of humor, even at the risk of offending others.

Were there more protests at other commencements? A female graduate ripped up her diploma at the commencement of Columbia University’s School of Social Work. The protester was dressed in a keffiyeh with her wrists bound in zip ties. According to Reuters, chants at Emerson College in Boston briefly interrupted the college president during commencement ceremonies on Sunday. The livestream of the commencement showed some students carrying Pro-Palestinian signs or Palestinian flags as they walked across the stage to receive their degrees, Reuters reported.

Dig deeper: Read William Inboden’s column for WORLD Opinions examining the Biden administration’s stance toward Israel.

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

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