Sunday, June 13, 2004
Not too long, not too good, not worth 50K
I'm trying to think of something nice to say about the commencement speech by Coretta Scott King Friday at the University of Cincinnati. Still thinking.
Well, it was not too long. Compared to some commencement speeches, it was mild.
And she did encourage the class of 2004 to "nurture your spiritual development" and "pay attention to your inner voice of conscience, compassion and humanity." Who can argue with that?
But now I'm scraping the bottom of the nice jar. Such as: Boy, she really does deliver a lot of liberal platitudes for $50,000. She covered the all-time Top 10: peace, racism, poverty, pollution, gun control, universal health care, peace, after-school programs, the death penalty and peace.
I wish I could come up with more positive things to say. I did not accept a kind invitation from UC hoping to write something negative about the widow of a national hero, just so I could get liberal readers to quote Ronald Reagan: "There you go again."
I realize her brand of idealism is aimed at the students, not me. King's speech was like a final-exam review of all the fine and noble sentiments that sound great - until you try to apply them in a real world where real evil exists.
But I genuinely wanted to hear something fresh and positive from the "renowned advocate for peace and social justice."
When she urged graduates to "take the road less traveled - the road of servanthood," and "make life better for those who don't have your blessings," I thought she might say something extraordinary.
When she challenged them to "answer the call," I knew she wasn't talking about the cell phone ringing under a graduate's robe. I thought for an instant she might be talking about all the young people of the same age, who did not have the blessing of a college degree, who are risking their lives to make the world better for oppressed people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When she said young people could "change the destiny of the world," I thought she might say something positive about the ultimate servanthood - serving your country.
Instead, she wondered how many after-school programs could be paid for with the money wasted on war in Iraq.
Instead, she insulted the sacrifice of our troops. She only used the American death total in Iraq to drape her anti-war comments in borrowed black crepe.
When she touched on race relations in Cincinnati, her solutions were uninformed or unrealistic: civilian oversight of police (we already have several layers) and non-violence training for cops.
King is true to her beliefs. UC, which has had conservative speakers in the past, got just what it paid for. Most of the crowd gave her a standing ovation. But many stayed glued to their chairs, looking grim on a day that should be a happy celebration of their children's success.
As I watched the graduates stroll in, I saw a young man scanning the crowd, searching, searching - then a wide grin. "Yeah," the smile said, "the family is here to support me."
There are soldiers in Iraq right now, kids the same age, who are scanning our faces, searching, searching for the support they deserve.
My "inner voice of conscience, compassion and humanity" wants to know: How do they feel when a commencement speaker scorns their sacrifice - and the graduates stand to applaud?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 768-8301.
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