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Apr 10, 2013 08:01 AM EDT

Former World Bank President Withdraws As Commencement Speaker over Criticism from Students


Former World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, has withdrawn as the commencement speaker at Swarthmore College due to criticism from students over his support of the Iraq war and his role in President George Bush's administration.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place, June 2.

In addition, he has also declined an honorary degree.

Zoellick said that he doesn't want to disrupt the ceremony, which is considered as an important day for graduates and their family and friends and turn it into a unnecessarily controversial event.

An online discussion forum hosted by Swarthmore's Daily Gazette newspaper saw students discussing Zoellick's role in helping build an ideological foundation for the Iraq war.

He had apparently signed a letter urging then-President Bill Clinton to remove then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. Donald Rumsfeld, who co-signed the letter, later led the invasion of Iraq as Bush's secretary of defense.

Swarthmore's President, Rebecca S. Chopp, defended the choice of the University. Chopp said that the university is proud to have Zoellick as their alumni and will award him the honorary degree recognising his contributions to the country and the world.

Zoellick was a senior student at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a 1975 graduate of the renowned Pennsylvania liberal arts college. He served as president of the World Bank from 2007 to 2012, was executive vice president of Fannie Mae and a senior international adviser to Goldman Sachs.

Apart from Zoellick, entrepreneur Tralance Addy and novelist Lorene Cary were also selected by the Honorary Degree Committee to speak at the college

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