May 28, 2008

Obamessiah And The Sermon On Foss Hill

I had not paid much attention to the fact that He Who Thinks He Walks On Water wound up (owing to the brain tumor of Teddy Kennedy) delivering this year's commencement address at my old alma mater of the Glorious People's Soviet of Middletown, CT. Over at NRO, Jim Manzi gives this take:

I donít have a visceral reaction to Barack Obama one way or the other, but I sure found his commencement address at Wesleyan to be pretty off-putting. He smugly put himself forward as an exemplar of the well-lived life, and proceeded from this to the more politically significant solipsism of imagining how much better America would be if it were filled with people who were a lot more like Barack Obama.

After some throat-clearing, Obama gets into the meat of the speech by offering himself as a role model for the graduating seniors:

But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me óhard work, honesty, empathy ó had resurfaced after a long hibernation. . . . I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of. And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car. And I said yes.

The single sentence paragraph at the end of this section has got to be my favorite part of the speech, though Obama modestly allowing that his evident virtues of hard work, honesty, and empathy are due to his mother is a close second.

Whatís funny about his sacrifice is that when Obama took this job, $14,000 was about the average salary for somebody getting out of college. Of course, Obama wasnít just a run-of-the-mill college graduate; he was an Ivy-Leaguer, who graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. A corporate career would almost certainly have been more lucrative ó for a while. Last year, his family income was about $4,200,000. I donít have the data, but I bet that compares reasonably favorably with the average household income of 1983 Columbia political science and 1991 Harvard Law School graduates. Nonetheless, Obama did sacrifice some of his expected credential-based wage premium for a number of years.

Iím pretty far from being a John McCain booster, but does Obama not get that heís running against a guy who spent the directly analogous years of his life in a fetid jungle prison being hung upside down and beaten with sticks until his bones broke?

And I said yes. Cry me a river, pal.

Go read the rest, as Jim has much more on Obamessiah's application of his little life lessons to everyone in the country.

Back in the day when I was a soon-to-be newly-minted alum sitting out on the field behing Olin Library in 105 degree heat and a red nylon robe, our commencement speaker was Bill Cosby (one of his daughters was in my class). Cosby stood up at the podium, looked us up and down, and said (as near as I can recollect):

"Class of 1987........Big. Freakin'. Deal."

His general theme was that we ought to get over ourselves - that life was not all protest rallies and political idealism and the pursuit of Nirvana, but instead was the ordinary grind of ensuring that one had a roof over the heads of oneself and one's family and enough food in the fridge for same and thank God we lived in a system that allowed one to do so. In short: you're a bunch of dumbass college kids - grow up, get a job, work hard, take care of your loved ones.

Cosby's theme did not, perhaps, fire the stoodents' imagination quite the way one might like, and I recall that the class president - a fellah from South Africa elected due to the fact that anti-Apartheidism was en vogue at the time - felt it necessary to shape his own address as a kind of rebuttal to Cosby's words of wisdom.


All these years later, when I compare HWTHWOW's earnest self-promotion with Cosby's humorous but sensible life lessons, I'm still very much inclined to go with the Cos. After all, he is the man who came up with Chocolate Cake:

Yips! from Gary:
Campaign slogan of the day:


Posted by Robert at May 28, 2008 09:04 PM | TrackBack

I saw Cosby when I was in Reno. He's still great!

Posted by: GroovyVic at May 29, 2008 07:37 AM