Former President Barack Obama held the first of his two scheduled virtual commencement addresses today in a live stream beamed to thousands of newly graduated attendees at historically black colleges and universities, urging the students “to seize the initiative” during this difficult time in our nation’s history.
While the former president’s remarks were full of the type of motivational guidance with which commencement speeches are usually comprised, the current pandemic offered Obama the opportunity to savagely, if somewhat obliquely, critique Donald Trump’s leadership during the pandemic without ever mentioning his name.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in the web-streamed address. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Given that Donald Trump’s ignorance was on plentiful display even before his inauguration, that metaphorical curtain must have been awfully thin and sheer to begin with.
in an attempt to make lemonade out of the sour present that we face with its limited possibilities of employment, President Obama cited the absence of effective federal government leadership as an opportunity for the new graduates to rise to the occasion and help steer the future direction of the country as it fights the pandemic and forges a new future for the United States.
“If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” Obama reminded the graduates.
As much a palliative to an American public scarred by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s delayed, flailing, and inadequate response to it, Obama’s initial speech today reminded our nation’s citizens of issues that have been regularly championed by the Democratic party including universal health care and environmental and economic justice, a far cry from the agenda being implemented by Trump and his GOP cronies who have made it their mission to reverse any gains made during Obama’s own eight years in office.
While the former president has largely displayed enormous restraint by refusing to publicly comment on his successor’s actions despite the constant blame and taunting that Trump has directed his way, comments from a private call he held with many of his former staff and supporters leaked out last week that presaged his criticism of the current administration in his first commencement address today.
Calling the Trump regime’s pandemic response “anemic and spotty” in an overly generous understatement, Obama went on to damn the administration and their shambolic, politicized approach to the crisis.
“It would have been bad even with the best of governments,” Mr. Obama said to those on the call. “It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mind-set — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mind-set is operationalized in our government.”
President Obama is likely to continue to take on his successor’s pitiful leadership when he makes his second commencement address of the day this evening in an address to America’s high school graduates.
Titled Graduate Together: High School Class of 2020 Commencement, that speech will be broadcast live at 8PM Eastern Time this evening on all of the major broadcast TV networks.
You can get an idea of what that commencement speech may contain by watching Obama’s complete address to the historically Black colleges and universities in the video below. What a thrill to be reminded of a time when presidents were articulate and capable of inspiring their audience to more than just hatred and divisiveness!
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.