After having seen earlier reports that Monday might be rainy, I had been worried about the weather. But Monday afternoon in West Michigan was blue skies and a high in the upper 60s. Lovely, lovely weather.
Air Force One arrived at Grand Rapids' Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) around 4pm. The press was told that it might be 10-30 minutes before the president got out -- the plane is a working mobile White House after all and it's not like he had to quickly deplane and get his luggage. But only about 10 minutes after they landed, President Obama trotted down the stairs and walked over to Marine One and flew to Kalamazoo. Marine One and its escort and decoy helicopters landed on Angell Field, which though it is next to Western Michigan University's campus and about a block away from WMU's Public Safety police station, is actually nearby Kalamazoo College's football stadium. Plenty of room for helicopters to land hidden from view behind trees. With the area locked down for security, right near the Public Safety station is a roadhouse whose rooftop deck was crowded with WMU students getting a glimpse of helicopters and motorcades.
The WMU field house had opened for KCHS at around 3:30pm, Obama was in Kalamazoo at 4:47. But his motorcade hopped downtown to the Radisson to meet with DNC people, two Michigan congressmen and some donors. Then back for the main event at 7pm.
Everyone had said the Commencement would start at 7pm, but when I flipped over to Channel 3 at 6:55, there were already things going on. I also found that WOTV-41/4 in Battle Creek was also covering the event live. Didn't check to see if CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC or FOXnews was covering it live -- none of them seemed to mention it later. Wasn't this news? Actually the principal and the superintendent gave excellent speeches of their own, as well as the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches. Obama pointed out to Simon Boehme, the salutatorian, that by the time he was 35, Obama would be well out of office and not have to run against him. (grin)
… I’m here tonight because after three rounds of competition, with more than 1,000 schools, and more than 170,000 votes cast, I know – and America now knows – what you’ve done at Kalamazoo Central.
Together as a community, you’ve embraced the motto of this school district: “Every child, every opportunity, every time,” because you believe, like I do, that every child – regardless of what they look like, where they come from, or how much money their parents have – every child who walks through your schoolhouse doors deserves a quality education.
And I’m here tonight because I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century: Educators raising standards and inspiring their students to meet them. Community members stepping up as tutors and mentors and coaches. Parents taking an active interest in their kids’ education – attending those teacher conferences, turning off that TV, and making sure that homework gets done...
…meaningful achievement, lasting success – that doesn’t happen in an instant. It’s not just about the twist of fate, or the lucky break, or the sudden stroke of genius. Rather, it’s about the daily efforts, the choices large and small that add up over time. It’s about the skills you build, the knowledge you accumulate, the energy you invest in every task, no matter how trivial or menial it may seem at the time...
… don’t make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes, but for your failures as well.
The truth is, no matter how hard you work, you won’t necessarily ace every class or succeed in every job. There will be times when you screw up, when you hurt the people you love, when you stray from your most deeply held values.
And when that happens, it’s the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone to blame. Your professor was too hard; your boss was a jerk; the coach was playing favorites; your friend just didn’t understand. We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV.
This community could have easily gone down that road. You could have made excuses – our kids have fewer advantages, our schools have fewer resources, so how can we compete? You could have spent years pointing fingers – blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming the principal or the superintendent or the government.
But instead, you came together. You were honest with yourselves about where you were falling short. And you resolved to do better – to push your kids harder, to open their minds wider, to expose them to all kinds of ideas and people and experiences.”
Obama congratulates salutatorian Simon Boehme.
We didn't stick around once they started announcing the graduates. We've both attended too many graduations as faculty and so moved on. But the President did shake every student's hand or give them a hug. And was still smiling at the end of the Z's. To me, the only surprising thing was that, being so used to college commencements, Obama wasn't in a cap and gown. Still, that Presidential seal does dress up a podium. (grin)
In writing this up starting at 2pm on Tuesday, there wasn't a lot of stuff I found easily online. Google Images failed to come up with one picture of Obama at the podium in front of the KCHS students with a series of perfectly reasonable search terms. Only MLive.com, a Michigan aggregator of newspapers, seemed to give decent coverage. The speech is excerpted here.
Instead, I find that there's a YouTube video of one member of the choir yawning during Obama's speech. No, I'm not linking you to that whole circus.
And the frothies had to make comments on the newspaper sites:
Between those that couldn't understand Obama's 'big words' and the A.D.D.'s that quit taking their Ritalyn it left precious few to appreciate his message.
Who wants to bet at least 25-30% of that graduating class won't be in prison within five years?
Another 15-20% will join the military. Another 10% will get a government job.
Therefore, us taxpayers will be supporting (and in many cases CONTINUING to support) 60% of them for the rest of their lives.
Still, not all is for naught:
I have not, and am not always an Obama fan. I'm not sure the blame for our messes, aren't more evenly divided among all politicians.
That being said, I found the President's speech to have been very inspiring, and well delivered. I was afraid he would turn it into a pitch for one of his agendas. He did not! He kept it about the students, graduation, and their futures. I was very impressed.It also appeared that the crowd and the students, acted in such a manner, consistent with the magnitude, of the event.
Congratulations again, to KPS and K-Central!
This is one person who I think actually watched and listened to the speech, instead of having their screed already written ahead of time.
And maybe that's enough. That and history being made on Monday in Kalamazoo, Michigan.