Jerry Seinfeld's Duke Commencement Speech Sparks Student Walkout Over Israel Support

Dozens of Duke University students walked out of comedian Jerry Seinfeld's commencement speech in protest of his vocal support for Israel. The students chanted "Free, free Palestine" and waved Palestinian flags outside the ceremony where Seinfeld received an honorary degree.

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Nitish Verma
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Jerry Seinfeld's Duke Commencement Speech Sparks Student Walkout Over Israel Support

Jerry Seinfeld's Duke Commencement Speech Sparks Student Walkout Over Israel Support

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld's commencement speech at Duke University on Sunday was met with a student walkout in protest of his vocal support for Israel. Dozens of students chanted "Free, free Palestine" and waved Palestinian flags as they exited the ceremony where Seinfeld received an honorary degree.

Why this matters: The controversy surrounding Seinfeld's speech highlights the ongoing debate and tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has far-reaching implications for global politics and international relations. The incident also underscores the growing trend ofpolitical activism on university campuses, where students are increasingly using their voices to express dissent and promote social change.

In his speech, Seinfeld mostly avoided directly addressing the protests, instead focusing on defending various types of privilege. "I grew up a Jewish boy from New York. That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian," he said. Outside the stadium, graduating students continued their chants, shouting "Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest."

Seinfeld, who has two children who attended Duke, has been uncharacteristically outspoken about his support for Israel in recent weeks. He signed a letter backing the country and posted a message on social media expressing his devotion to it. His wife, Jessica Seinfeld, also recently promoted a counterprotest at the University of California, Los Angeles that turned violent.

In December 2022, Seinfeld traveled to Tel Aviv where he met with the families of hostages and experienced a missile attack during his visit. Despite his strong political views on Israel, the comedian has said he keeps those feelings private, stating, "I have my personal feelings about it that I discuss privately. It's not part of what I can do comedically, but my feelings are very strong."

Seinfeld's commencement address at Duke University, while intended to celebrate the graduating class, instead highlighted the ongoing tensions and debates surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the comedian aimed to impart wisdom and humor, dozens of students made a powerful statement by walking out in protest of his political stance on one of the world's most complex geopolitical issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Jerry Seinfeld's Duke University commencement speech sparked a student walkout over his pro-Israel stance.
  • Dozens of students chanted "Free, free Palestine" and waved Palestinian flags during the protest.
  • Seinfeld defended privilege in his speech, avoiding direct address of the protests.
  • Seinfeld has been vocal about his support for Israel, signing a letter and posting on social media.
  • The incident highlights growing political activism on university campuses and tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.