Former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal told nearly two dozen graduates of Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, Sunday they should work to make the world better. Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in 1981, spoke to the students via video, the Associated Press reported.
Before his sentence was commuted to life, Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, earned a bachelor's degree from Goddard in 1996. "Goddard reawakened in me my love of learning," he said. "In my mind, I left death row."
He told the 20 graduates: "Think about the myriad of problems that beset this land and strive to make it better."
The decision to allow Abu-Jamal, a former journalist, to speak sparked sharp reaction from police and corrections officials. The Vermont Troopers Association said inviting Abu-Jamal to speak showed disregard to Officer Daniel Faulkner's family. It also sparked death threats against the college staff, vtdigger.org reported.
“Understandably people are upset. It’s a very controversial thing that’s going on and we certainly understand everybody’s feelings,” Kolber told vtdigger.
Abu-Jamal, whose sentence was commuted to life in 2012, is incarcerated at Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania.