Biden's commencement address to the Class of 2021 was... something

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It is odd enough that President Biden delivered a generic commencement address to the Class of 2021 – every graduate, not a specific graduating class. The speech he read was what can only be described as less than inspiring.

Biden tweeted out the commencement address. He delivered it via a video produced at the White House. He turned what should have been a basic address offering up his congratulations to the graduates into a darkish downer kind of speech. Biden was careful to center it around Democrat talking points, of course. He campaigned on bringing Americans back together yet every time he speaks in public, he intentionally divides listeners. He barely took the time to actually say the word ‘congratulations’.

In the speech, which lasts for a mere 2 minutes and 46 seconds, Biden opens by saying congratulations and smiles as he does so. Then it goes downhill from there. The smile disappears from his face and he concentrates on reading the teleprompter. Even in such a short speech, he mumbles and smacks a microphone while gesturing. He wanted to drive home the fact that he thinks the most pressing problem in America is systemic racism. He tossed in mentions of the economy and climate change for good measure. The graduates are at an inflection point in American history, he told them. He oddly went on to bring in his own graduation and the days of the Vietnam war.

Comparing today’s students to those who graduated during the era of the civil rights and anti-war protest movements, Biden encouraged them to seize the moment to tackle climate change and systemic racism which he described as one of ‘the great crises of our time’.

Biden recounted his own experience and said that shortly after he graduated, his generation faced an inflection point as the Vietnam War split the nation coupled with fights for civil rights, women’s rights and environmental rights.

‘And now you face another inflection point,’ he said. ‘As we put this pandemic behind us, rebuild our economy, root out systemic racism and tackle climate change, we’re addressing the great crises of our time with a greater sense of purpose than before.

‘And because of you, your generation, I’ve never been more optimistic about the future than I am today,’ he added.

‘Just three years after I stood where you’re standing, two of my political heroes, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, were gunned down.

‘The Vietnam War divided the nation and divided families. We’re in the midst of a great movement for civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental rights.

‘We — we faced an — an inflection point, and we did our best to seize that moment, because things were changing so rapidly, and now you face another inflection point.’

It isn’t unusual for a commencement speaker to reminisce about their own graduation and to encourage the current graduating class to go out and do good things in the world. But the comparison to the days of the Vietnam war is just off. This isn’t 1968. To personalize the argument, I’m old enough to remember those days to some extent from my childhood and I was born and raised in the deep south. Racial progress has happened in significant amounts during my own lifetime. It does a disserve to those who worked for that progress to ignore the real history. The violence in the streets during that year was all about anti-war protests and college students avoiding the draft (as Joe Biden did). If Biden wants to boil that time down into a simplistic explanation, his is the wrong example to use with today’s graduates. As a matter of fact, their four years in college or high school (Biden didn’t specify if he was speaking to either high school grads or college grads or both) have been experienced during relatively peaceful times. Trump is the only president in recent years who didn’t start a war or ramp up one.

King was assassinated in 1968, not during a protest or at the hands of police, but on the balcony of a hotel by an assassin’s bullet. Unlike BLM marches and protests, King preached non-violence.

Condoleezza Rice, when asked about race issues now on a Sunday morning political show, pointed out the changes that have happened during her lifetime. For example, she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, then her family moved to Denver. In 1963, some young girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham when she was eight years old. They were her friends. Now Birmingham has a black mayor. Her point is that times have changed and progress shouldn’t be ignored or brushed off.

Instead of dwelling on the past, Biden should have brought real inspiration to the forefront. After acknowledging how tough the last year has been, especially on students, he could have gone on to highlight some real successes that have occurred during the pandemic, despite the pandemic. Advancements have been made in space exploration, for example, and he could have encouraged students to pursue careers in various fields of science. He could have encouraged them to go into the medical field and work towards preparing for the next pandemic. He could have suggested they do volunteer work in their communities and their churches. There are always needs in every community.

The race riots during the Summer of Love and the anti-cop rhetoric that divides us are not the same as the days of MLK, Jr.’s assassination. George Floyd was a drug-addicted felon who was resisting arrest when he died at the hands of police in Minnesota. No, he didn’t deserve to die during an arrest but the point is, he was no civil rights hero. He’s been made into one in his death because it serves the agenda of the BLM movement, a Marxist attempt to fundamentally change our system of government and America in general. Biden kowtows to the radical left for political expediency. He never mentioned sacrifices of past generations that allow the opportunities that will be available to this rising generation. Today the 77th anniversary of D-Day is being commemorated. Biden’s historical reference was of the 1960s instead of the greatest generation, which highlights sacrifice and unity. That was a generation that truly changed the world, rising to meet the needs of its own inflection point in history.

In another commencement speech, the one for the graduating class at the Coast Guard Academy last month, Biden spoke about systemic racism but added that he doesn’t believe that Americans are racist. He didn’t do that in this speech. He ended the speech with another congratulation and told the grads to “go out and do what you can.” It just seemed like a missed opportunity.