Inside the Palestra, Powell was greeted with a standing ovation but outside it was a different story. More than a dozen protestors chanted their disapproval of Powell for his role in the Iraq War.
“His name is now inextricably linked with a catastrophe. We fail to see how that kind of publicity benefits the University of Rochester,” said University of Rochester Professor Dan Beaumont. “It's a little bit disingenuous from the administration, given the fact that we just opened up a Ghandi Peace Center here, and then to have somebody who was one of the architects of this war to speak and then get an honorary degree on top of it seems a little bit not kosher,” said University of Rochester professor Anthea Butler.
The University of Rochester presented Powell with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his years of public service. “I think everyone recognizes that Colin Powell has had a remarkable, really extraordinary career of service to the country for more than four decades in Vietnam, from the White House, to the State Department. The honorary degree today recognizes that career of public service,” said University of Rochester spokesman Larry Arbeiter. Many who attended the address support the school’s decision to honor the former Secretary of State.
“You can't just demonize everyone for making some mistakes. There has to be some level of forgiveness and personally I don’t think this is such big issue that you need to make a scene over it,” said freshman Dan Shorrock. “He was doing his job and when he felt that he couldn't do his job where it meshed with what he believed in and what he as being asked to do he stepped down and I respect him for that. I actually think that I agree with what he says and I don’t have a problem with them giving him a degree,” said alumnus Neil Halin.
Powell was the keynote speaker for the University of Rochester’s Meliora Weekend.