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Conservative college grad who walked out of Merrick Garland's commencement speech 'would do it again'

College graduation season this year is nearly here — and scores of schools already have announced their commencement speakers ahead of the special occasion

As students of higher education finish up their coursework and prepare for commencement, a woman who made waves for standing up and walking out of Harvard University’s commencement ceremony last year while Attorney General Merrick Garland was delivering his address said she would repeat her actions.

Emma Heussner of Washington, D.C., earned a master’s degree in psychology from Harvard. She walked out of her own graduation ceremony last year — fed up with the speech.

HARVARD GRADUATE WALKS OUT OF MERRICK GARLAND’S COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Heussner, who works in social media, said she absolutely would repeat it. 

“I would do it again,” she told Fox News Digital this weekend. 

Emma Heussner and Merrick Garland at Harvard

Emma Heussner, at left, earned a master’s degree in psychology from Harvard University. She’s pictured at last year’s commencement address. Attorney General Merrick Garland, at right, spoke at Harvard in 2022.  (Emma Heussner; AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

She explained why. “Conservatives are coined as the ‘silent majority’ and look where that’s gotten us,” she said. “Students and their parents are now fighting for regular, not sexualized, curriculum in K-12.”

She added, “As long as conservatives are silent, we are compliant with how far we let the left push their agenda.”

Heussner also said, “Universities [should] be places that teach students how to think and challenge our beliefs. They should encourage students to debate and learn from other perspectives.”

“As long as conservatives are silent, we are compliant with how far we let the left push their agenda.”

However, given today’s reality, Heussner said that “standing up for myself and my beliefs by walking out on Merrick Garland’s speech was a way for me to honor the time, money and energy spent earning my degree — while also honoring those who actually supported me throughout school.”

And the ones who supported her, she said, were “my friends and family who were cheering me on.”

Emma Heussner with her parents

Emma Heussner is pictured last year at Harvard University with her parents. It was “my friends and family,” she said, “who were cheering me on.” (Emma Heussner)

She also told Fox News Digital this weekend about the response to her actions last year, “The support I got from strangers on the internet was overwhelmingly positive. So many people I’ve never met rallied behind me,” she added. 

She explained, “I think that’s partially because there aren’t many signs of intelligent life (AKA conservatives at Ivy League schools) who make a statement by speaking out against the propaganda otherwise pushed on us as students.”

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Said Heussner as well, “I understand the criticism I received from a few, too. They believed it was hypocritical and ungrateful of me to not endure Garland’s speech.”

Merrick Garland “didn’t represent me or what my academic career taught me to think independently [about],” said the Harvard graduate.

However, she said, “I think it was more important to spend my graduation with my family than waste time sitting through a politicized speech that made students like me feel unwelcome and complacent.”

Garland’s ideas, she said — and the content of his speech last year — “didn’t represent me or what my academic career taught me to think independently [about].”

Rather, she said, his speech “was ostracizing.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland

When U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke at Harvard’s commencement address in May 2022, he said, among other things, “Our country’s institutions – like the department I lead – are central to the effort to defend our democracy.” (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Last year, igniting strong reaction from many corners, she shared on Twitter that she had “just walked out of Harvard’s graduation because I didn’t want to listen to Merrick Garland talk about himself for 30 minutes.”

She added that what she did hear was “pretty rich.”

Heussner earned a master’s degree in psychology from Harvard in 2020. 

“But because of the pandemic, they weren’t able to give us a formal graduation” back then, she explained last year.

“Harvard did not have tickets for my parents — so they couldn’t go in and watch the ceremony.”

Instead, the graduation ceremony during Memorial Day weekend of May 2022 celebrated those who graduated in 2020 and 2021, she said. 

“So I went up with my parents,” she said about last year’s graduation ceremony. 

“But Harvard did not have tickets for my parents — so they couldn’t go in and watch the ceremony,” she said. 

Emma Heussner at Harvard

Emma Heussner at Harvard. She said she thought to herself about Merrick Garland during his commencement address last year, “You’re the attorney general — you’re someone who could make an immediate difference based on the actions and decisions you make as attorney general.” (Emma Heussner)

Instead, “they had to watch it” as it was “broadcast” from another location, she said.

Heussner said, “I sat there with my classmates for a while” under the hot sun that day. 

She said there were a lot of “graduation formalities,” including singing and Latin pronouncements by various members of the administration and faculty.

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And “by the time Merrick Garland finally started speaking, it was very much — I think he was trying to be inspirational and motivating, as in, ‘You guys are responsible for making the world a better place,'” she said. 

Garland seemed to be saying, “This country sucks and you guys can fix it,” said Heussner about the attorney general’s commencement address. That “didn’t sit right with me.”

“But the way it read,” she continued, “was very much like, ‘This country sucks and you guys can fix it.’”

That “didn’t sit right with me,” she told Fox News Digital.

She said she thought to herself of Garland during that address, “You’re the attorney general — you’re someone who could make an immediate difference based on the actions and decisions you make as attorney general.”

She added, “So it was a very easy decision for me to walk out and meet up with my parents” instead.

Emma Heussner

Emma Heussner last year at Harvard. She said it was an easy decision fo her last year to walk out of Garland’s speech “and meet up with my parents” instead, she said.  (Emma Heussner)

Heussner added of her parents, “They’re the ones who were there for me and who supported me — and I didn’t want to be preached to by Merrick Garland, when he was talking a lot of talk but not really walking the walk that he was preaching.”

Among Garland’s comments at Harvard last year during his commencement address: “It is a great comfort to see all of you in your robes. You look like little judges. I feel right at home,” he said. (Some people laughed.)

“One of the reasons young people struggle so much with mental health these days is the societal fall from God.”

Garland also said, according to a transcript of his remarks, “When I was sitting where you are sitting today, there were many things to worry about. But it never occurred to me that the right to vote would again be threatened in this country.”

He also said, “At the same time that we are witnessing efforts to undermine the right to vote, we are also witnessing violence and threats of violence that undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based.”

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When Heussner walked out last year, did she notice any others walking out with her? 

She said, “We were sitting in the hot sun for a while — so unless it was a spectacular speaker, I could see that people would want to walk out [of a speech like that] for other reasons” as well, she said.

Heussner graduated from the University of Alabama in 2018, earning a degree in psychology. 

She then went to Harvard for two years to earn her master’s in psychology.

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Today, in 2023, she told Fox News Digital, “I’m still working in social media, at a PR firm based in Virginia, as a digital account manager.”

Recently on Twitter, Heussner commented, “One of the reasons young people struggle so much with mental health these days is the societal fall from God — no one is giving them a normative moral right and wrong anymore, so Gen Z are finding their identity and god in ‘wokism.’”

She has nearly 14,000 followers on Twitter as of publication time.

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