Obama’s commencement address

Obama at ASU.jpgThis is it. Really. Only it’s the commencement at Arizona State–a university that decided not to give Obama an honorary degree, in contrast to what Notre Dame will do on Sunday. The honorary degree issue is becoming the favored talking point among many die-hard Notre Dame opponents who seem to want to appear open to Obama speaking but not to “honoring” him with a degree. I don’t see the distinction, really–inviting him as featured commencement speaker is the honor everyone will remember, but perhaps I am slighting the prestige of a commemorative sheepskin.


Anyway, ASU officials apparently drew fire for making that distinction, and they seemed from the New York Times account to be a bit chagrined. But as is becoming the pattern, President Obama turned the issue to his advantage in what strikes me as a clever and gracious speech with a better message than most:

[Mr. Obama] used the controversy to make the point that no one should be satisfied with “the outward markers of success,” either as individuals or as a country.

“I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t achieved enough in my life,” Mr. Obama told tens of thousands of students and relatives packed into Sun Devil Stadium. “First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home.


“But more than that,” he added, “I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to confirm that one’s title, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one’s life has been led — and that no matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.”

The decision not to award an honorary degree to Mr. Obama was taken by many as a snub, especially after university officials explained that “his body of work is yet to come.” Embarrassed university officials tried to contain the damage by renaming its most important financial aid program the President Barack Obama Scholars Program, which will benefit 1,600 freshmen this fall.


The university’s president, Michael Crow, heaped praise on Mr. Obama in introducing him on Wednesday night. “You’ve lit a fire under all of us to move America forward,” Mr. Crow said.

Mr. Obama thanked him and called the controversy “much ado about nothing.” But he still aimed a barb at the university’s leadership. “President Crow and the board of regents will soon learn about being audited by the I.R.S.,” he joked.

Ha ha. But his foes will be furious. I just hope he’s that good this Sunday, though again, there’s not much he can say at this point that will change many minds. So I wonder if he will keep it light and generic. That would be the temptation, and I hope he doesn’t succumb.

Here is some good early WaPo feed off the event as well.


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Glenview Boy

posted May 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Apparently anti choice zealots have chosen to pick and choose their ‘sanctity of human life’ issues, as they protest Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame this weekend.
It seems the rank and file Catholics out there, in addition to a number of small minded Cardinals and Bishops, including Chicago’s very own national embarrassment, Francis George, who are protesting our President’s commencement speech at Notre Dame this weekend, conveniently forget about things like capital punishment and the tragedy in Iraq.
Where were the protests when Notre Dame awarded former President Bush an honorary degree when he served as President? Did these small minded folks forget that, under Bush as governor, the state of Texas was famously known as the number one capital punishment killing machine in the United States, even executing mentally retarded convicts? And how convenient to forget the Iraq bloodshed, started by the Bush administration. Was it appropriate for Notre Dame to award an honorary degree to a president who deliberately lied to the American public and manipulated data to justify a preemptive attack on Iraq that has cost the lives of well over 4,500 American and coalition forces, almost 200,000 innocent Iraqi citizens and destroyed the lives of millions more?
Can you say, “HYPOCRISY?”

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posted May 17, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Can you say “Go to hell, you servant of Satan!”

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posted May 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Can you say “Get out of my sight. you demon!”

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