Along with a great many people, I watched President Obama’s speech to the class of 2020 during the Graduate Together television event. My step-daughter is a 2020 high school graduate and she wanted to experience this moment. His speech was smart, hopeful and inspiring. In all honestly, it was a welcome respite from the word vomit upchucked by this current administration.
This was not a political speech, but he did touch upon our current reality by noting the following:
This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems — from massive economic inequality to ongoing racial disparities to a lack of basic health care for people who need it. It’s woken a lot of young people to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don’t work; that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick; and that our society and our democracy only work when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other.
It’s also pulled the curtain back on another hard truth, something that we all have to eventually accept once our childhood comes to an end. And all those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? Turns out that they don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions.
His belief in the American community was at the core of his speech.
No one does big things by themselves. Right now, when people are scared, it’s easy to be cynical and say let me just look out for myself, or my family, or people who look or think or pray like me. But if we’re going to get through these difficult times; if we’re going to create a world where everybody has the opportunity to find a job, and afford college; if we’re going to save the environment and defeat future pandemics, then we’re going to have to do it together. So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.
Remember when we had a President who could think and speak in coherent and thoughtful sentences?