Opponents of the Arizona Republican's speech see it as more of a political stump for a presumptive 2008 presidential candidate and a talk from a conservative who doesn't hold the liberal values the New School was founded on.
McCain, who's also the commencement speaker this year for conservative evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, is a Vietnam War and congressional colleague of New School's president Bob Kerrey.
Kerrey said he asked his friend to be the speaker because "I think he's one of the world's most important leaders at the moment."
Protesters gathered outside the Fifth Avenue and 14th Street building of the school after handing Kerrey a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures urging him to take back McCain's invitation.
Kerrey said he won't.