While a convicted cop killer gave the commencement speech for a group of graduating college students, a gathering of Philadelphia police officers gathered for a vigil in honor of the slain officer.
In 1981, Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal, and after the trial, Abul-Jamal was sentenced to death. In 2011, however, the now 60-year-old was resentenced to life in prison.
The fall 2014 graduating class at Vermont’s Goddard College decided that they wanted Abu-Jamal to make the commencement speech. In 1994, Abu-Jamal went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from Goddard, and his story has been followed by many for years. Goddard College’s Interim President Bob Kenney explains why he supported the students’ decision to select the convicted murderer as their commencement speaker.
“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker,” said Kenney in a statement. “Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”
Officer Faulkner was just 25 years old in 1981 when he was murdered by Abu-Jamal, and now, more than three decades later, his wife is speaking out against the college’s decision to have her husband’s murderer make the commencement speech.
“The only thing I would want to hear from Mumia Abu-Jamal is him admitting and confessing to my husband’s murder,” said Maureen Faulkner. “Shame on them. They could have another commencement speaker that would give these students wisdom before they start out in life.
“Thirty-two years later the Faulkner family, my family and I, have to endure the pain of him being able to speak in public and having rights,” Maureen stated. “Having a murderer, a radical, and someone who hates America to speak with them I think is so wrong.”
To show their solidarity with Faulkner’s family, scores of Philadelphia police officers held a silent vigil during the time when the prerecorded commencement speech was played to students in Vermont.