This Memorial Day Sunday, Barack Obama did what he described as “pinch-hitting” for one of his personal heroes, Senator Edward Kennedy. From many accounts, Obama’s commencement address at Wesleyan College was rousing and inspiring. The Nation’s Katha Pollitt was there and wrote on a listserv, “he was really excellent. … the college opened graduation to outsiders — LOTS of people, black and white, came from the area to hear him. My daughter, a junior, said she found it inspiring. she not very political, so that is a high compliment.” What an antidote to Sunday night’s HBO special, “Recount” –with scenes bringing back memories of Florida’s slithery Secretary of State Katherine Harris –and other GOP thugs–stealing away our democracy. Remember Justice Antonin Scalia’s three word sneer, “Get Over It.” Those were words the Justice invoked in defending the stealing of the 2000 election. So, this May 25th, 2008, we had two Americas at work: One on our tv screens–a docudrama (more drama than docu) about the selection of a President; the other, a real-life drama with Senator Barack Obama standing in one for one of America’s greatest Senators, speaking to students and calling them, and all of us, to our better angels, with determined idealism and grounded pragmatism. You choose. Thugocracy or Democracy.
Here are remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Wesleyan University Commencement
Sunday, May 25th, 2008
Thank you, President Roth, for that generous introduction, and congratulations on your first year at the helm of Wesleyan. Congratulations also to the class of 2008, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your graduation.
I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy. Teddy wanted to be here very much, but as you know, he’s had a very long week and is taking some much-needed rest. He called me up a few days ago and I said that I’d be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way I could fill his shoes.
I did, however, get the chance to glance at the speech he planned on delivering today, and I’d like to start by passing along a message from him: “To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who’d rather have a different result, I say, don’t get your hopes up just yet!”