Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama Speaks At ASU

I Would Have Preferred Oprah.

When addressing the graduating class of 2009 at Sun Devil Stadium, President Barack Obama had the opportunity to inspire, lifting the spirits and motivating students to reach for their dreams and realize their goals. And he did that, while bashing what most grads worry about the most when on the precipice of springing into the work force: making money.

Oprah, who gave the commencement address at Duke University earlier in the week, said that she loves living in a mansion and “it is really fantastic to have your own jet, and anybody who says it isn’t is lying to you. That jet thing is really good.”

Now that’s honesty you can take to the bank, no pun intended.

Using a clever euphemism for making money, calling it “the old approach,” the president denigrated those living in a higher tax bracket saying, “It was in pursuit of gaudy short-term profits, and the bonuses that come with them, that so many folks lost their way on Wall Street.”

Wow. How disappointing and hypocritical.

Addressing over 71 thousand people in Tempe, Barack said that “formulas for success that have dominated these recent years,” should not be the brass ring to shoot for, adding, “how much money you make and how big your corner office is; whether you have a fancy enough title or a nice enough car” isn’t what graduates should concentrate on.

Sorry, but that’s not a goal for many. The corner office, the nice car is also a sign of success; it shouldn’t be a symbol of shame or arrogance or greed as President Obama (and others) have suggested.

Speaking of arrogant, what I find particularly galling and offensive is how people who have attained a level of financial success, (ahem, Mr. President) feel it is their right to lecture and chastise people on the evils of making money; or wanting to attain wealth. Or simply working selfishly to be successful. That somehow wanting to be successful and have that success be rewarded by financial gain is inherently corrupt and goes against what this country stands for.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Does that mean Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, JP Morgan, Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, Mark Cuban and the Jonas Brothers are corrupt and evil because they worked with a single determination and became wildly successful, i.e, wealthy? I think they are something to aspire to, not denigrate. Well, maybe the Jonas Brothers.

Blind greed is evil; avarice is a sin, but what of our elected politicians who have made plenty of money in their lifetimes before, during and after they are elected political heroes? Should we mock Bill Clinton for commanding a million dollars for a speech? Should we insult Bill Frist for being a good doctor and had a thriving practice before being elected to Congress from Tennessee? I would feel better being lectured by Mother Theresa who actually lived in abject poverty than John Kerry or John McCain who married women of wealth.

But the president did say something that I agree with wholeheartedly: “no matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, more to learn, more to achieve.”

And if that monetarily rewards you, don’t feel shamed.

I think Oprah would agree with me.

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