Sen. Barack Obama has now left Wesleyan, where he stood in for the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy and delivered a commencement speech.
He was under an obligation not to be too political in his remarks; no one wanted Wesleyan to lose federal funds because of his appearance. Apparently, under federal regulations, a private university cannot abide political speeches from aspiring presidential candidates without risking federal funding. Obama was also obliged to say something swell about the Kennedys. These obligations naturally put a strain on political discourse. But he steered around the pilings with great agility and ended up complimenting Jack, the architect of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and Bobby and Teddy.
According to an AP report in the Journal Inquirer, “Barack Obama urged college graduates Sunday to ‘make us believe again’ by dedicating themselves to public service. We may disagree as Americans on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready and eager and up to the challenge,’ Obama told Wesleyan University’s Class of 2008.”
Others -- Bill Buckley, for example, in a slender volume called "Gratitude" -- have made the same point more effectively.
There were winsome references to the Kennedys: “The Illinois senator peppered his speech with references to the Kennedy legacy: John F. Kennedy urging Americans to ask what they can do for their country, the Peace Corps, and Robert Kennedy talking about people creating ‘ripples of hope.’”
All this on Memorial Day, a time usually set aside for reflections on the precious costs of patriotic military service.
Obama concluded his speech contrapuntally, a rhetorical hallmark of the Kennedys: “At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That’s your task, Class of 200.”
Unlike Abe Lincoln, who pressed on to victory during a bloody Civil War, or Franklin Roosevelt, who pressed on to victory during a bloody World War, Obama favors a quick withdrawal from the hot war in Iraq, which military forces on the ground, both Iraqi and American, now appear to be winning.
We cannot to often remind ourselves that stupidity springs eternal, most verdantly in colleges.