There’s a comical TV and radio commercial that recently started playing for a bank that’s meant to appeal to the current crop of new college graduates now entering the “real world’. It has a commencement speaker giving the new grads his words of encouragement for their futures. But even as he tells them what bright futures they have, he slams them with the cold hard truth. He tells them they face a future “where student debt crushes your dreams and you’re forced to clean your neighbors’ gutters for gas money…where you move back home and share a bathroom with your younger sister…and the only lasting impression you make is on the cushions of your couch.” Unfortunately, that’s too often true, but that speaker sounds like a graduate of the Barack and Michelle Obama School of Commencement Speaking.
Traditionally, graduation speeches are meant to uplift, encourage and challenge the young people as they begin a new chapter of their lives. It’s supposed to be about them, and the parents and families that helped them make it to their big day. But never underestimate the ability of an Obama to turn a commencement speech into a political rally, saying more about themselves and their pet projects than about the graduates.
Last week, Michelle ranted about race and how unfair her life has been in America when she spoke to graduates at Tuskegee University: “The road ahead is not going to be easy,” said Michelle, “It never is, especially for folks like you and me.” Apparently forgetting she’s married to the most powerful man in the world, she went on to “inspire” the Class of 2015 by listing off all the “slights” she’s had to deal with in her life: “…the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores. The people at formal events who assumed we were the help.” Michelle wants to party like it’s 1964.
Not to be out-done by the missus, BHO spoke to the graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy about an “immediate national security threat.” Did he enlighten them about the horror stories of ISIS beheadings and how that group now has a training camp just 8 miles south of the Texas border? Did he talk about China or Iran and the Middle East? No…in the world according to Obama, the biggest threat that will come to us is from climate change. He goes through the all the old, tired reasons climate alarmists give such as the breaking up of Antarctic sea ice and last year being the warmest ever…blah, blah, blah. Another wasted opportunity.
In contrast, two other famous African Americans were much more uplifting and less self-centered when called upon to address the Class of 2015:
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke to the graduates at the College of William and Mary in Virginia last weekend. She said as educated people, they have a responsibility to pursue their passions and to be optimistic, telling them, “I know that cynicism sometimes comes with education, but we have reached a level of prosperity and freedom never seen before and although there are still problems, educated people should be hopeful of solving them.”
…And at Dillard University in New Orleans, actor Denzel Washington took an unabashed spiritual approach by telling the graduates to “put God first in everything you do.” He said, “True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you sent beforehand that it’s already yours. … When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up…Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”
Now those are words you can build a life upon.
Unfortunately, the Obamas have squandered every opportunity they’ve ever been given to really inspire and bring people of all backgrounds together. They could have told their stories from the point of view that less than 50 years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible for a half white/ half black man to be president, but look how far we’ve come. They could have encouraged the students by letting them know that when they put their minds to it, they can achieve great things in America.
The only consolation is that few, if anyone, ever remembers what a commencement speaker says on Graduation Day…when the Obamas speak, that’s probably for the best.