On Sunday, more than 330 Cecil College students graduated after years of hard work, and they’ll be joined by many across the nation in coming weeks.
Late May is the season of mortarboards and tassels, “Pomp and Circumstance” and, at times, memorable commencement speeches.
Rutgers University’s Class of 2016 definitely will remember their commencement speaker after President Barack Obama took the stage Sunday to impart some final words of wisdom. It wasn’t the first time that the president has spent time with the next generation – in fact, Obama has made nearly two dozen commencement speeches in his two terms – but it was one of his more memorable speeches.
In a year rapt with the rhetoric of a presidential campaign season without an incumbent, Obama proved that he is in touch with the candidates running to replace him. Without ever naming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Obama clearly set Donald Trump in his sights as he urged grads to “shun those who want to confront a rapidly changing world by building walls around the United States or by embracing ignorance,” The New York Times reported.
Obama told the roughly 12,000 graduates that change will increasingly be a constant in their new lives and that problems cannot be solved in isolation.
“A wall won’t stop that,” Obama said, a clear allusion to Trump’s proposal to build a border wall between America and Mexico. “The point is, to help ourselves, we’ve got to help others — not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out.”
The president also rebuked Trump’s calls to prohibit Muslims from entering the country, adding that such a stance would actually hurt America’s partnerships overseas in fighting Islamic extremism.
“Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting they should be treated differently when entering this country — that is not just a betrayal of our values, that’s not just a betrayal of who we are, it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad that are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism,” Obama said.
While Trump has built his campaign around the slogan of “Make America Great Again,” Obama asked the 50,000 in attendance Sunday to take such nostalgia about the good old days “with a grain of salt.”
“Guess what? It ain’t so,” the president said of a better life in years past, noting that college graduation rates have increased, crime rates have dropped and more women are advancing in workplaces than ever before.
Perhaps the greatest message from Obama’s speech, however, was the call to embrace facts, science and intellectualism — something that has been sorely lacking from politics in recent years. He noted ironically that we expect our doctors and airline pilots to be experienced, but wondered why “in our public lives we suddenly think, ‘I don’t want someone who has done it before.’”
“In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” Obama said. “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”
“The rejection of reason the rejection of facts — that is the path to decline.”
We couldn’t agree more with President Obama and hope that our new graduates reject the increasingly common line of thinking that facts can be subjective. Graduates, continue to embrace education and learning, always aim to become more informed on the positions on which you take stands and, most of all, never become so stubborn in your position to not be willing to debate your ideas with others.
Those things will ensure that our great nation continues to prosper well into the future.