Education

Obama Invokes Grease Trucks, Springsteen, and Old Queens Tavern in Rutgers Commencement Address

b41119b0351924233ff4_rutgers_revolutionary.jpg
250 years shining a light in central New Jersey Credits: 250.rutgers.edu
b41119b0351924233ff4_rutgers_revolutionary.jpg

PISCATAWAY, NJ -  Dr. Barack Obama became the first sitting President of the United States to address a Rutgers graduating class today as the university celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2016 and the 250th Anniversary of one of America's first 9 colleges.  Obama, America's 44th President and the first African-American to hold the office, received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, noting that neither of his two daughters would be impressed.

The Rutgers Class of 2016 is the largest and the most diverse in the university's long history.  Indeed, Rutgers has been recognized for having the most diverse campus population in the United States.  Today's audience, though beset by chilling winds, was enthusiastic in response to Obama's address.

The President acknowledged that he was not in Piscataway to settle the "pork roll versus Taylor Ham" controversy.  "I know better than to get myself into that debate," said Obama.  He began with a gaggle of familiar references to Rutgers students and Central New Jersey locals:  the "fat sandwiches" at the grease trucks (noting that health and fitness maven Michelle Obama would not approve of late-night snacks that feature both mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers,) the bus service among the five local campuses in Middlesex County, and last night's last call at the Olde Queens Tavern on Easton Avenue.  He praised Rutgers students for having already survived these and other "death-defying acts" during their time as students.

Sign Up for E-News

Obama acknowledged Rutgers' heritage as one of the original 9 Colonial Colleges, "an intellectual melting pot" that held its first class in a pub and has grown into one of the nation's largest academic institutions.  He noted that the "progess of Rutgers has mirrored the evolution of America."

The president urged the Rutgers studtents to be be aware that "the pace of change is accelerating" and that "change offers both great opportunity and great peril."  He offered 5 thoughts to the graduates as they listened to his address at the High Point Solutions Stadium today, beginning by alerting them to a "gold old days" mentality posited by some politicians (and even "cranky parents and grandparents.")  Obama said that America is better off than it was 50, 30 or even 8 years ago, referencing his own tenure in the Oval Office.  He stressed that change is incremental and that looking backward never helped anyone move forward.

"The world becomes more inter-connected every day.  Building walls cannot change that, " said the President, providing a direct reference to statements made by Republican Presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump.  Earning applause for this comment, he continued, "We can't pull up the drawbridge to keep the world out."  Rutgers students responded enthusiastically when Obama stated, "Isolating or disparaging Muslims is a betrayal of our values.  It would alienate our partners in our efforts against violent extremists."

However, the President noted that "the entire burden (of supporting democracy) cannot be shouldered by the 1% of Americans who serve in our military."

Acknowledging the role of Rutgers and other universities' impetus to grow a more informed population of voters, Obama said of current politicians "Facts.  Evidence. Reason. Logic. An understanding of science.  These are good things.  This is what you want."  He went on to criticize the growing "strain of anti-intellectualism" in American political discourse: "In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.  It is not cool not to know whta's going on....The internet has made us more confident in our ignorance.  You can find many sites where the wildest conspiracy theories are taken as true."

Referring to the persistence of the disbelief in the science of climate change, Obama said that some "leaders often display a disdain for facts.  Experts are dismissed as elitists.  He quoted New Jersey-born scientist Carl Sagan, who advised people to "Embrace what is true, not what feels good."

The president went on to encourage graduates and all Americans to have faith in Democracy and the progress it has made in our nation.  He urged young people to vote, cting that the voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest ever, among young people especially.  He reminded the graduates and their guests that "Apathy has consequences."

Obama advised people to listen to those with whom they disagree, not to shut them up or disallow their voices to be heard.  He referred specifically to the protest against the appearance as a commencement speaker of Dr. Condoleeza Rice at Rutgers in 2014 as "misguided."  "Use your logic, your reason, and your words.  You may have a new understanding.  You may learn to hold your ground." 

In closing, President Obama advised students to gear up for the long haul in life.  "You will be frustrated and you won't get everything you want.  Be persistant.  Better is good.  Don't lose hope."  Obama supported student effort, hope and positivity:  "Don't let resistance make you cynical.  Cynicism never accomplished anything."

As is incumbent upon most speakers in the Garden State, Barack Obama told the Rutgers Class of 2016 to remember the words of local hero Bruce Springsteen about people who don't succeed in life: "They spend their lives waiting for a moment that just don't come."

The subtext of the speech hit on several contemporary topics to which the students responded with applause or verbal recognition including the anti-intellectualism of some current candidates for political office; the cynicism and apathy that cripples some millenials; the effort and persistence required for success; and the pride and opportunity presented by being a Rutgers graduate.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

Becoming English in 90 Minutes

It was our first day in the country. The smell of fish'n chips filled the air, and the Wig and Pen was the place to be as England prepared to take on Sweden in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup on Saturday.  Wearing blue and yellow was a death sentence. The streets were lined with fans dressed in red who stood in pub lines extending for blocks. We had one goal: Convince the locals ...

Understanding the Tough Times at The Buffalo News Can Lead to Brighter Future for the Newspaper 

Given the fiscal state of the news industry, the changes underway at The Buffalo News are not unique. To offset revenue losses, newspapers across the nation have bid farewell to longtime reporters, eliminated once-popular sections and removed jobs that involved covering important beats, such as education, the environment and transportation. 

What makes the ...

Grandpa Practiced Sustainability

My grandpa was of the Depression Era. Sustainability wasn’t “a thing” back then — it was just the way you lived. Though he was raised in a time when you were thankful to be able to put a good meal on the table, he likely had a standard of life that we would consider average or middle class today. He didn’t grow up in a slum or shanty town, but he did understand the ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, July 16, 11:30 AM

Allegany Public Library, Allegany

SBU's Quick Center ArtMobile

Education

Mon, July 16, 2:00 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Ladies Social Hour

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, July 16, 2:00 PM

OleanPublic Library, Olean

SBU's Quick Center ArtMobile

Education

Quick Center’s ArtMobile Embarks on 10th Year of Summer Visits to Area Libraries 

July 15, 2018

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University kicks off its 10-year anniversary this month participating in the National Summer Reading Program, making stops at public libraries across New York and Pennsylvania.

“This is one of the Quick Center’s most ambitious summers to date,” said Sean Conklin, assistant curator of the ...

Four area students receive Murphy scholarship

Four area high school graduates each recently received a $10,000 John J. Murphy Family Scholarship managed by the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation.

Tyler Lashway of Port Allegany High School; Emily Rohrs and Anna Seamon, both of Allegany-Limestone Central School; and Olean High School’s Natalie Sova each received the John J. Murphy Family Scholarship.

The $10,000 scholarship is ...

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey

How often do you read TAPinto?  Have you downloaded the TAPinto APP?  These are a few of the questions for readers in our 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

We want to hear from you!

The survey will take less than five minutes to complete and will help TAPinto better serve you. 

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

Thank you.  We appreciate your support and ...

'A Day in the Life': One Transportation Supervisor Serves Portville and Olean

PORTVILLE, NY – A whiteboard with dozens of destinations and vehicle numbers written in various colors sits inside the Portville bus garage, ready to be changed at any moment. David Youngs, the transportation supervisor of the Portville and Olean School Districts, knows that before 2 almost every afternoon, he is likely to receive an email changing the entire meticulously planned ...

'A Day in the Life' Follows Della Moore of the African American Center for Cultural Development

OLEAN, NY – When Della Moore walks down the street, she greets everyone she passes and makes sure to ask, “How are you doing?” 

From the moment I joined her at the 7-Eleven on a cloudy, cold December morning until we finished making our stops along State and North Union streets, she remained ...

'Day in the Life' Follows Warehouse Selector Justus Elliot

OLEAN, NY -- For Justus Elliot, time and pace are essential. As a warehouse selector for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-Op, most of the 21-year-old’s job calls for efficiency.

“Everything is time-based," Elliot explained. "One hundred percent is the norm, and it’s what we work for every day. If our score is less, then we are moving too slow, and we kick it into ...

Happy Veterans Day, Mom

What began as an attempt to boost her GPA soon turned into a 22-year career for my mom, Ramona Lee Discavage.

On the first day of her freshman year at St. Bonaventure University in 1989, members of the Army ROTC Seneca Battalion helped incoming freshmen move their stuff into their dorm rooms.  Afterward, they invited all of the freshmen to a lunch.

“When they described the ...

Lynn Kemp: ‘Best Soldier I Could Be’

Lynn Kemp is nearing 95 and knows he has lived a good life.

“The good Lord has been awful good to me,” recalled the lifelong resident of Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. “I never refused an order. I tried to be the best soldier I could be. I don’t know what your relationship is with God, but mine is pretty close.”

Born Oct. 29, 1920, Lynn grew up in a home on Turkey ...

WW II museum provides role models for young people

When Steve Appleby asks area students if they know Snoop Dog, Eminem, Kanye West, the Kardashians, Parris Hilton or Miley Cyrus, they answer yes. Then Appleby will ask which of them knows Jason Dunham is, and the students will not have a clue.

Appleby will explain that Jason Dunham was a Marine from Scio, in Allegany County, New York, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 after jumping on a grenade ...