Weekend commencements take political turn
College commencement speakers couldn’t resist discussing politics and the 2016 election during this weekend’s round of graduation ceremonies.
At Smith College, for instance, Oprah Winfrey was welcomed with several Black Lives Matter banners draped from on-campus residence halls, which she acknowledged by saying “I appreciate that” and asserting that “social justice for all really matters.”
“Don’t think I didn’t notice all the Black Lives Matter signs on all the houses,” she went on to say to applause, noting that graduates ought to “dispel hate” in the world, while the student commencement speaker, Badriyyah Alsabah praised Smith College for its inclusive admissions policies and support of illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, offered a similar message at Spelman College, where she accused critics of “just not” being “used to seeing an African American woman” in her role.
She then concluded her address by declaring that “our great country needs us all to engage right now,” lifting a popular post-office slogan of Obama’s, saying “the most important office is the office of citizen.”
“Many of us were no doubt shaken by the last election, and much of what we have observed over the last several months,” she continued. “But we also must keep in mind that the journey to perfect our union has never been easy.”
Similarly, Sen. Tammy Duckworth encouraged George Washington University’s graduates to “get involved, not discouraged,” saying “the battle for the heart and soul of our nation” is on the line.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Duckworth refrained from mentioning President Trump by name, instead referring to the “leaders in Washington with a dark vision for our future.”
“The thoughtful, principled leaders once common in Congress and the White House — the kind of leaders who fought over policies during the day, compromised and then shared a drink together as friends in the evenings — those kinds of leaders are today often drowned out by the loudest voice in the room” regardless of “whether or not that voice has a plan or even cares to string together a coherent sentence while they're spewing hate," Duckworth added to applause.
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