Em­brace ed­u­ca­tion

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

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.

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