Editorial: I graduated, too

Editorial: I graduated, too
May 20
14:07 2020

By Bridget Elam

Firstly, it should be said that there were things about Obama’s Administration that I was against and there are things about Trump’s policies with which I agree. So, I’m not as biased as I may seem. It’s just noteworthy that outside of their administrations, I am drawn by one president and repelled by the other.  

Under the Trump Administration, there’s been this constant push and pull over verbal wins and losses. For him, it’s more important to declare a Twitter victory than to promote understanding and civility. It’s to the point that anytime I hear his voice, I tend to veer away from the noise. Yet last Saturday, as Barack Obama delivered a pair of national commencement addresses to the high school graduating class of 2020 and graduating seniors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), I was drawn to hear more.

“It’s your generation’s world to shape,” Obama spoke to the Class of 2020. His words gave them much needed hope and a sense of responsibility, especially during this time of confusion and chaos. Shucks, Obama gave me hope and I’m 30 years post high school graduation. 

What a stark contrast between Obama’s and Trump’s words.

Obama used his words to uplift and edify. Trump’s words often point and poke. They rarely elevate or embrace. I felt embraced by Obama’s speech to our seniors. More importantly, I felt comforted.  

“If the world is going to get better, it’s up to you,” Obama told our graduates. What an empowering notion – they have input about our nation’s outcome. Hopefully, they walked away from their virtual graduation with marching orders to better our nation.

I wonder what a Trump commencement address would sound like. I’m sure he would have touted his “accomplishments” and not theirs. Somehow he would have managed to alienate some of them and disappoint most of them. Tweets and hashtags can’t carry the weight of duty and aspiration.

Obama’s speeches caused me to realize what was missing from the current administration – it’s compassion, hope and a sense of belonging. It’s a voice that quiets storms and rebukes conflicts. It’s the audacity of hope to triumph over our current situation. It’s a presidential president.  

In a little over seven and a half minutes, I graduated. I graduated my thinking beyond today’s calamity. I graduated to the realization that what we’ve been missing from the White House is the “united” in the United States of America.  

I graduated to the understanding that Proverbs 15:1 is applicable to our spiritual and political lives.  It says: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Thank you, President Obama, for your commencement addresses. We surely do miss your words of unification and hope.  

Bridget Elam

Managing Editor

The Chronicle

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