About 30 students stage walkout at Duke commencement over Seinfeld speech

Jewish comedian, who visited Israel in solidarity following October 7, receives honorary degree at graduation event attended by some 7,000 people

Commencement speaker Jerry Seinfeld laughs on stage during Duke University's graduation ceremony, May 12, 2024, in Durham, North Carolina. (Bill Snead/Duke University via AP)
Commencement speaker Jerry Seinfeld laughs on stage during Duke University's graduation ceremony, May 12, 2024, in Durham, North Carolina. (Bill Snead/Duke University via AP)

Some 30 students walked out of Duke University’s commencement ceremony on Sunday while some chanted “Free Palestine” to protest its guest speaker, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, for supporting Israel throughout the war in Gaza, according to videos of the event posted on social media.

Other graduates shouted “Jerry! Jerry!” as the Jewish actor received an honorary degree, and Seinfeld delivered his speech to an audience of around 7,000 people without major interruptions.

Seinfeld opened his speech by joking that his invitation to speak at the ceremony brought the prestigious “Duke experience down a couple of notches.”

Amidst a joke-filled speech, Seinfeld gave the graduates his three bits of advice for life: “Bust your ass, pay attention, and fall in love.”

He then encouraged the students to use their privilege well.

“I grew up a Jewish boy from New York. That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian,” he quipped.

He also seemingly referred to the protests on US college campuses when mentioning the Harvard-educated writing staff on his ’90s show, “Seinfeld.”

“I’m not talking about Harvard now, I’m talking about the way it used to be,” he said. “You’re never going to believe this, but Harvard used to be a great place to go to school. Now it’s Duke.”

Seinfeld visited Israel and has vocally supported it since October 7 when terrorist group Hamas invaded the country with thousands of terrorists, killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 252 others.

During a solidarity visit in December, Seinfeld visited Kibbutz Be’eri, which was heavily targeted by Hamas on October 7, and met with hostages who had been freed in a week-long truce in November.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in the war, a number that cannot be independently verified, as it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 15,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.

Jerry Seinfeld poses for a portrait to promote the film, ‘Unfrosted,’ on April 16, 2024, in New York. (Victoria Will/ Invision/AP)

The walkout was the latest manifestation of protests that have roiled US campuses, as students call for universities to divest from arms suppliers and other companies profiting from the war, and amnesty for students and faculty members who have been disciplined or fired for protesting.

At the end of April, students in some universities took over and occupied buildings on campus and were eventually cleared out by police.

Some universities, like Columbia, where the first encampment was set up last month, canceled their main commencement events because of the protests. The New York university held smaller school-based graduation events instead.

While pro-Palestinian protests were held at Duke over the last seven months, no encampment was erected on campus.

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