Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in San Jose, California on June 2. Josh Edelson— AFP/Getty Images
There’s a new piece of popular advice for graduates
In the tradition of commencement speeches, repetition is inevitable. Year after year, influential speakers offer graduates a relatively familiar message, telling them to change the world while seizing opportunities and overcoming fears of failure. This year, many speakers have added a new topical piece of advice to the rotation: don’t behave like Donald Trump.
Several 2016 commencement speakers—from actors to politicians—have admonished the Republican presidential nominee, mentioning him either directly by name or with references to his policies. With their speeches on Friday, both Michelle Obama and Matt Damon joined the mix.
Some speakers have made reference to Trump’s repeated promise to build a border wall and get Mexico to pay for it, while others have referenced his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and his tendency to resort to name-calling tactics with rivals. (Notably, some of the same speakers also took shots at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by mentioning his promises of free college and Wall Street reform.)
Here’s what they had to say:
The President of the United States addressed graduates at Rutgers University on May 15.
“Building walls won’t do that. It won’t boost our economy, and it won’t enhance our security either. Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting that they should be treated differently when it comes to entering this country— that is not just a betrayal of our values. That’s not just a betrayal of who we are, it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism. Suggesting that we can build an endless wall along our borders, and blame our challenges on immigrants — that doesn’t just run counter to our history as the world’s melting pot; it contradicts the evidence that our growth and our innovation and our dynamism has always been spurred by our ability to attract strivers from every corner of the globe. That’s how we became America. Why would we want to stop it now? … In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”
The First Lady spoke to spoke at City College of New York on June 3.
“But unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress… And here in America, we don’t give in to our fears. We don’t build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere but sought out this country and made it their home.”
The Good Will Hunting actor spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on June 3, mentioning the idea that reality could actually be a computer-generated simulation.
“If there are multiple simulations, how come we have to be in the one where Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president? Can we like transfer to a different one?”
The Huffington Post editor-in-chief spoke at Colby College on May 22:
“There is, for example the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who brags about how little sleep he gets, and how he sleeps with his phone beside him. What effects does that have? Well, there’s the inability to process even basic information, mood swings, anger outbursts, false memories, lack of impulse control, belligerence, paranoid tendencies to spout conspiracy theories, and things like retweeting Mussolini. Those are all, as it happens, symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation. Except possibly the Mussolini bit – that’s probably just Trump.”
Huffington also gave the address at Hunter College on June 2.
“Hunter is a living testament to the power of diversity, tolerance, and progress. But as much as we would like to think otherwise, these values cannot be taken for granted. They have to be safeguarded, protected and defended every day. You don’t have to follow the news particularly closely to realize they’re under assault right now. We have a presidential nominee who smears Mexicans as ‘rapists,’ who wants to institute a religious test to enter a country founded on religious freedom, who wants to erect barriers and walls. But this is an institution based on breaking down barriers and walls, on proving the value of opportunity, openness and diversity. So all of you have a special role to play in upholding Hunter’s rich legacy at a time when it is threatened like never before in our lifetime.”
The Secretary of State addressed graduates at Northeastern University on May 6.
“You are the most diverse class in Northeastern’s history – in other words, you are Donald Trump’s worst nightmare… I think that everything that we’ve lived and learned tells us that we will never come out on top if we accept advice from soundbite salesmen and carnival barkers who pretend the most powerful country on Earth can remain great by looking inward and hiding behind walls at a time that technology has made that impossible to do and unwise to even attempt. The future demands from us something more than a nostalgia for some rose-tinted version of a past that did not really exist in any case.”
The Democratic Massachusetts Senator spoke at Suffolk University on May 22.
“How’s this speech polling so far? Higher or lower than Donald Trump’s unfavorable numbers with women?”
Earlier, speaking at Bridgewater State University’s commencement on May 14, she mentioned her ongoing feud with Trump.
“I never imagined I would be a commencement speaker. I never imagined I would get into a Twitter war with Donald Trump.”
The creator and star of Broadway hit Hamilton addressed graduates at the University of Pennsylvania, where Trump’s daughter graduated this year.
“In a year where politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system, a story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done.”
“Every generation has had to confront its own demagogues and every generation has stood up and kept them away from the White House, at least so far. Now, it’s your turn. In this year’s presidential election, we’ve seen more demagoguery from both parties than I can remember in my lifetime. Our country is facing serious and difficult challenges, but rather than offering realistic solutions, candidates in both parties are blaming our problems on easy targets who breed resentment. For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims, and for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street. The truth is: We cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone. We are all in this together, and we all must be part of the solution. America’s power in the world comes not from the walls we build, but the doors we open, and it comes not from tearing down success, but building up opportunity.”
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee spoke at Trine University on May 7.
“We live in tumultuous times. Demagogues on the right and the left draw upon our darker angels, scapegoating immigrants and Muslims or bankers and business people.”
Maria Elena Salinas
The Univision anchor said journalists were often unfairly vilified by politicians, mentioning Trump, and was met with boos from the audience at California State University, Fullerton on May 22.
“Imagine: They blame us so much for so many things that now they even blame us, the media, for creating Donald Trump. Imagine that!” she said, as some in the crowd started to boo her. “Isn’t that terrible? But we didn’t, right? We didn’t. Who did? I don’t know. But they are to blame.”
The Republican Kansas Senator spoke at Friends University on May 7.
“You know, there is this call out there to ‘make America great again,’ but I want to tell you that this nation will not be better because we have one more millionaire. It will not be better that we have one more person that’s achieving fame and success… Mr. Trump must now work to address the serious concerns many conservatives – myself included – have about some of his positions and comments, as well as unite the Republican Party around our common goal of securing a brighter future for our kids and grand-kids. If he accomplishes this, he will have my support.”