Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Nation of Community Organizers

Let's just say that I've attended more than my fair share of commencement exercises and listened (or at least tried to) to more than my fair share of commencement addresses as well.  The latter are best when the speaker paints a compelling picture of the world the graduates will soon face, a world that while still seasoned with very real challenges, is nevertheless charged with hope.  Oh, yea, and they need to be short too.

But whatever they actually say to the graduates, commencement speakers end up revealing a lot about themselves as well.

Many thanks to Daniel Henninger for calling our attention to the differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney revealed by comparing their commencement addresses delivered this year before graduates at Barnard College and Liberty University respectively.  The speeches, as you would expect, were mostly pandering boilerplate, but they nevertheless revealed two very different men, two different temperaments, and two different ideologies.  They also revealed, and confirmed, more about Obama than they did about Romney.

I was struck particularly by this passage from the President's speech:
"Don't accept somebody else's construction of the way things ought to be. It's up to you to right wrongs. It's up to you to point out injustice. It's up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely. It's up to you to stand up and to be heard, to write and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote."
Rather than, as the leader of it, challenging those present to be thankful for this great country, to make good use of the blessings of liberty afforded by it, and through thrift and industry, service and sacrifice, to extend those blessings to their posterity, Obama focused instead on what he sees as its shortcomings, its "wrongs", its "injustice", and the need even to "upend it entirely" if necessary.

I only hope the Barnard graduates, like most grads on that busy day, weren't listening.

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