I sat in the crowd with thousands of beautiful families waiting to hear a message of inspiration, hope, and a brighter future like I would expect to hear at any commencement speech in America. Instead, sitting in the audience at the historically black Howard University, the graduates, their families, and I heard a message from the president of the United States laced with divisive rhetoric and political narratives that cast a dark shadow over our country.
Such an appalling, politically driven speech will no doubt leave many of the graduates in fear of certain of their fellow Americans and hopeless about the possibilities for their future in this country.
Howard University has been known for many years as a leader in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as a home to many notable alumni who have impacted our nation and the world.
The National Science Foundation has ranked Howard University as the top producer of African American undergraduates who later go on to earn their science and engineering doctoral degrees.
One would have to wonder why President Joe Biden chose this institution with its reputation for excellence and chose such a happy and historic moment for these graduates to inform them that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy. I’m not just saying this because I’m at a black HBCU, I say it wherever I go.”
Well, Mr. President, that’s the problem.
Black Americans, like many other groups throughout our nation, understand that politicians for decades have come to their neighborhoods and their events to pander and fearmonger them into the trance of victimhood. These politicians feel compelled to do it even when those whom they are trying to make victims are surrounded by countless examples of triumph and perseverance—like their fellow graduates at Howard’s graduation ceremony.
If we were to ask black Americans what they believe are the greatest threats to their livelihood and their local communities, I can guarantee you they would not say that white supremacy was at the top of their list.
So, let’s move past the political talking points and speeches filled with trigger words that seek to control the emotional state of black Americans. We have heard it all and seen it all.
What we should have heard from the president of the United States was how the graduates who were earning their degrees in business or accounting that day, for example, should help our federal government get a handle on its outrageous debt and its unsustainable spending habits with Americans’ tax dollars.
My colleague, Rachel Greszler, wrote a piece describing how government’s freewheeling federal spending will do real harm to people like these graduates and their future children. She asked, “How could over $230,000 of total government debt per household—debt that must eventually be repaid—not burden younger and future generations?”
Many of the families who attended Howard’s graduation feel the pain of the nation’s current economic crisis firsthand, and dealing with inflation on a daily basis has made it extremely challenging for them to just survive.
Unfortunately, several others in the audience might not understand how the government’s overspending and lack of accountability have caused much of the pain their families feel.
What about a message from the president to the students who were earning their degrees in some form of medicine or health care-related field?
With a community, a nation, and a world suddenly stricken by a pandemic that took the lives of over a million people in the U.S. alone—on top of so many other diseases and conditions already plaguing our nation—it seems more fitting for a president to provide inspiration and encouragement to these students to take the lead on finding the cures to preserve human life.
But of course, the game of politics prevails, even during an event when politics matters the least.
At a time when the president should have inspired and motivated, he attempted to polarize and divide this nation even further. The students and their families deserved much better than the message they got that day.
But I have hope that the students graduating with degrees in medicine, mathematics, the sciences, technology, and other critical fields will be the very people who help to bring Americans together as they use their professions to advance the nation and create a better world for all of us.
Congratulations to the graduates and their families.
I pray that your journey into fulfilling careers and throughout life is one that we can all be very proud of.
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