?It is that time of year again—commencement address season. It’s the time of year when everyone dusts off Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” from their high school anthologies, a time for secular sermons.
President Obama, a man who has probably never said no to a speaking opportunity in his entire life, gave the commencement address to Barnard College, the sister school to his alma mater, Columbia University. It looked about as political as everything else that he’s done since labor Day—an all-the-single-ladies Ivy League school in New York City. It’s hard to think of a friendlier audience for Barack Obama outside of the Kremlin, but he felt the need to pander anyway, and to remind them of all the tax-payer funded lollipops that he could give them, with the not-so-subtle implication that Mitt Romney would take them away. A few days later, he did the same thing at a high school in Joplin, Missouri.
His remarks were about as vague and as simplistic as they always are, designed that way so as to avoid all offense or disagreement. The only way to do this, of course, is to avoid serious thought.
?Here’s what a non-pandering Obama should have said:
?You can be powerful and stylish, but life is about neither of these things. Life is about character: you can control that. Power, on the other hand, is something people get—and I’m the clearest example that there is—based on luck, timing, and circumstances outside of one’s control. Most people whom we consider wealthy and successful or powerful are just a bad day away from losing everything, and most of the people whom we consider lowly are just a job or a rich uncle away from what we call success. My advice is to be like God and “not a respecter of persons.”
This is especially important for your generation because, if you ever do attain power—which I doubt you will because of our impending debt crisis which I have done everything possible to help precipitate—odds are that you will not be powerful for quite some time: in 2011, after two years of recovery from the recession, 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or underemployed. There is a greater than 50:50 shot that you are about to leave the cocoon of academia—where I have spent most of my life—to waste away in the harsh real world, which I too have wisely avoided. It is an unforgiving world of “you’re on your own” economics—I prefer dependency.