AND NOW, OUR GRADUATION SPEAKER: PHOEBE, A DOG, A BLOGGER
THANK YOU, Madam President, chancellor, vice chancellor, comptroller, deans, assistant deans, associate deans, directors of admission, assistants to the assistant directors of admission, alumni directors, vice presidents of communication – Have I left anyone out? Oh, right: members of the faculty. Thank you all you for inviting me to be your Commencement Speaker for the Class of 2017.
First, to you, the graduates, your families and friends, as I look out across what has suddenly become a vast and now empty graduation tent – I congratulate you making the excellent decision to not stick around for my talk. After all, who wants to hear a commencement speech – let’s be frank here and speak truth to power – delivered by a dog.
But even though you have hastily exited this great commencement tent and taken all the chairs with you to sell on ebay so you can begin paying off your student loans, I will persist, as we Commencement Speakers inevitably do, in the hope that somebody is actually listening, or in my particular case, should someone have made a recording of my remarks so that can live on and on and on on the Internet, at least on that most excellent of blogs, “On Trump’s Trail” – that’s http://www.ontrumpstrail.com/blog if you’ve forgotten or never heard of it.
To you, Madam University President, and the honorable trustees of the University Corporation, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for conferring upon me your University’s Honorary Doctor of Letters, Laws, Science and Numerals. I surely don’t deserve it.
I mean I really don’t deserve it. Let’s face it: I’m just a dog – albeit a sweet one. I’ve never set even one foot, to say nothing of four, in a classroom.
Not only is this a day after which you, the graduates, will have to begin paying off your student loans – and believe me, it’s going to take more than a couple of pilfered folding chairs to do so – it is a special day in many ways.
It’s a Sunday. In my day, it was a day off. But in your world of diminishing job prospects, you will be required to work seven days a week, just to keep up with the robots, which you won’t be able to do, in any event.
And of course, today is also Mother’s Day, on which we celebrate the universal qualities of motherhood: nurture, sacrifice, kindness, warmth. I do not mean to burden you with my own, personal narrative, although burden you I must, since I presume that’s why I was invited here to be you Commencement Speaker.
Faithful readers of my blog – that’s http://www.ontrumpstrail.com/blog – know that my mother abandoned me when I was a mere pup in Missouri, and that I quickly was whisked off a high-kill “shelter.” Fortunately, I was rescued and shipped to Rhode Island, where I received the best medical of treatment, with the exception of being subjected to the “routine” barbaric practice of spaying.
Thus, unlike most of you who have fled this commencement tent, chairs and all, I have neither memories of my mother, nor hope of becoming one.
And you think that’s a Debby Downer of a commencement speech?
It gets worse.
TODAY is also Day 115 of the Donald J. Trump presidency. Yup. He’s made it for 115 awful days and counting.
As you may know, I am the author, along with my sometimes friend, Cat, a cat, of our lightly read blog, “On Trump’s Trail” – that’s http://www.ontrumpstrail.com/blog – in which we comment on the course of the Trump presidency whenever we feel like it, which, given the depressing nature of the subject, turns out to be not that often.
But I make this promise to you today, that Cat and I will persist in writing our blog, just as I, as Your Commencement Speaker this morning, persist in speaking to an empty tent from which even the chairs have disappeared.
However, the real hope of the country and democracy rests with you, the Class of 2017, and the generation of which you are a part.
You are the future.
I know, I know, I KNOW: It’s a cliché to end a commencement speech this way.
But Donald Trump is the most dangerous threat our nation has faced since World War II.
Left to his devices, he will wreck the environment necessary to sustain ALL animal life, your kind as well as ours. He will likely expand on-going wars, and perhaps start new ones, if he continues as president. And remember, he is in charge of the most destructive weapons mankind has ever invented.
He will make the sick sicker, the poor poorer; he has reignited cultural and institutionalized hatred and racism. He will, with the help of his many enablers, eventually create a police state, using the advanced computing tools that are now available with capabilities for surveillance, control and repression far beyond those that George Orwell imagined in “1984.”
Sure, it seems logical that the silly, serial stupidities like those that he unleashed in the week just past will soon bring him to ground. But they haven’t so far.
This morning, he remains in the White House after firing the FBI director, supposedly at the recommendation of the Justice Department, which said he mishandled the Clinton e-mail investigation; then he changed the story, saying he intended to fire James Comey all along; he pretended that the FBI investigation led by Comey into his campaign’s ties with Russia had nothing to do with Comey’s firing; the next day he had the Russians in the Oval Office; later, he Tweeted that the fired FBI director better keep his trap shut, because Trump might have been recording his conversations. Suddenly, the bad old days of Watergate were back, complete with the Saturday Night Massacre, the Nixon tapes.
Allowed to continue, Donald Trump will destroy the United States as we have known it and turn it into a force for evil.
The solution lies with you, the Class of 2017, and with your contemporaries, and your generation, as well as with the generation to which you will give birth.
It is your obligation – not your option – to nurture democracy.
You must pay attention to – and not mock or dismiss or ignore – legitimate news.
Do not avoid, lose patience with, or hold in contempt “politics.” Talk about politics. Think about politics. Participate in politics. Contribute money, attend meetings, write, phone, email and text. Be skeptical of politicians, but do not become cynical about democracy. If you cannot run for political office, you should vote. But vote carefully, as if your life depends on it, because it does.
RIGHT NOW, we are losing the country, the comfortable, secure and free country that Cat and I and others of our generation have been so fortunate to enjoy, but which we have sadly taken for granted. In our remaining years – meager as cat and dog years are – we pledge to do what we can.
But really, the future is up to you. And just because, as I said, it’s such a cliché to say that, it does not let you off the hook.
You have all tools necessary to save the oldest, greatest democracy the world has known.
If you succeed, you will be heroes. The nation and the earth will flourish. You will be happier, more prosperous, more accomplished than anything that you or I or Cat can predict, and so will your children and their children.
So, Class of 2017, get to it.
It’s your country, now.