Convicted Murderer To Speak At Vermont Graduation At Students’ Request

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A former death row inmate who is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner will deliver a graduation speech at a Vermont college this month.

A speech recorded by Mumia Abu-Jamal in his Pennsylvania prison will be played at the Oct. 5 graduation ceremony at Goddard College in Plainfield.

The 23 students graduating from the liberal arts college requested Abu-Jamal as their speaker, Reuters reported.

"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," said Goddard president Bob Kenny.

Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, calls Goddard’s decision “despicable.”

“It’s not appropriate,” Faulkner said of the Goddard address. “His freedom was taken away when he murdered a police officer in the line of duty.”

“It seems like our justice system allows murderers to continue to have a voice over the public airwaves and at college commencement,” she told Fox News. “It’s despicable.”

Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, was convicted in 1982 for the murder of Officer Faulkner, 25, who was repeatedly shot in the back. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in December 2011.

A former member of the Black Panther Party, Abu-Jamal is a prominent black nationalist who has been vocal about problems in the justice system. He holds a nationally syndicated radio show from prison.

Goddard awarded Abu-Jamal with a bachelor’s degree in 1996.

“How can this go in our country? It’s amazing,” Maureen Faulkner said. “People need to start realizing that there’s right and wrong in this world. It seems like no one thinks about that.”

In 1999, a recording of his commencement address was played at Washington’s Evergreen State College. Some students walked out and others turned their backs in protest.

He gave another address at Ohio’s Antioch College in 2000, which Maureen Faulkner attended along with hundreds of police officers. When the recording began, Faulkner, police and other protesters turned their backs and silently filed out,

Sources: Reuters,, Fox News

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Chris McGeehan,