Tuesday, May 04, 2010

No Fist Pump, Obama?


The University of Michigan’s “Big House” played host to our illustrious President this past Saturday. He was the keynote speaker at the U of M’s spring commencement ceremony. I was there also as my nephew graduated and received his undergraduate degree.

I took the picture of Obama speaking here, very much zoomed in as I was up high in the cheap seats. But I had a pair of binoculars too, so I could see things more up close. Regardless of where you were sitting and regardless of whether you’re an Obama fan or not, you have to respect his ability to hold sway over a crowd of 80,000 plus.

Whenever I’ve attended commencements in the past, it’s a struggle for any speaker to hold the attention of their audience for 10 minutes, let alone 30 minutes like Obama did with his address. Usually beach balls sail here and there over the crowd, graduates chat distractedly and the older folks grow inpatient. I didn’t see that this time.

But the President still disappointed me.

This is the University of Michigan’s Big House, one of the most revered places in all of college football. Nearly every prior speaker paid their customary respects with a hearty, “Go Blue!” to close their remarks. The elected student speaker eloquently compared the challenges of change the President seeks in his first term with the challenges of change sought by U of M’s new football coach Rich Rodriguez as he strives for a winning season.

Our governor Jennifer Granholm warmed up the crowd by thanking the President for a number of favors he’s accomplished for the state of Michigan, but reserved her final thank you “for coming here instead of that school to the south” to an appreciative roar of approval from those listening.

Then Obama started his own speech by saying, “It is great to be here in the Big House and so may I say, “Go Blue!” I thought I’d go for the cheap applause line to start things off.”

What??!! “Go Blue” is not just some cheap applause line. It’s mantra, it’s sacred symbolism, it’s a tenet of life here in Ann Arbor. I’ve heard “Go blue” from strangers pretty much everywhere in the country I wear my Michigan shirt. C’mon Mr. President, “Go Blue” deserves more respect than that.

And that wasn’t my only disappointment. At the very end, after all the speaking, honors and salutations, the U of M band put the final icing on the ceremonial cake with a rousing rendition of “Hail to the Victors.”

It was something stirring to see the sea of fists thrusting skyward in unison at the word “hail”, even among the silk-robed intellectual elite gathered on the stage. But from what I could see through my binoculars, one person up on the stage was conspicuously not joining in the ritual—Obama.

Now wait a minute. Didn’t Obama get into trouble by bowing when he was in Japan? He obviously thought it was a case of “when a guest in Rome . . . “ So why not do what they do in the Big House when you’re a guest in the Big House? Where was his chief of protocol on that one?

Maybe the President’s lack of partisan spirit had something to do with his theme for his commencement address, which had to do with civility, respect and acceptance. OK, I guess. I can see a day when Democrats and Republicans might get along, maybe even a day when there is peace in the Middle East.

But a day when we will welcome to the Big House with civility, open arms and warm hearts those people representing that “school from the south” that Governor Granholm talked about? Trust me, it’ll never happen.

13 Comments:

Blogger Carine said...

wow, the prez! I don't remember who spoke at mine. Unfortunately, I do remember our about to be wed son's keynote speaker. ugh. he was so narcissitic that we were appalled that he didn't say anything to or for the graduates, just kept patting himself on the back and regaling the crowd w/ personal and very unrelating stories.

trust me-you got the better graduation ceremony.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

wow, the prez! I don't remember who spoke at mine. Unfortunately, I do remember our about to be wed son's keynote speaker. ugh. he was so narcissitic that we were appalled that he didn't say anything to or for the graduates, just kept patting himself on the back and regaling the crowd w/ personal and very unrelating stories.

trust me-you got the better graduation ceremony.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

With Obama's record why are you surprised? Remember, Hitler held sway over an entire country.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--I do remember who spoke at my graduation 35 years ago. It was Rafer Johnson, who was an Olympic athlete I believe. Very boring speaker though.

NANKIN--There are those people who just have that natural ability to command attention when they speak, for better or worse. I don't think Obama would get the same reception down there in Texas though.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Rahm Emanuel said...

Ya, like that wouldn't be a right winger's photo opportunity of a lifetime - Obama and students cheering with their arms at a 45 degree angle.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just when I thought the Big House couldn't be filled up with any more obnoxious full of the themselves people, who only care about their own opinions, the good ole' B-Rock shows up.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

RAHM--Well, true but with Photoshop the conservatives can pretty much create any picture they want anyway.

ANONYMOUS--Wow, that was harsh. Sounds like jealousy to me, which can only mean this is a State fan. Hea, I wasn't jealous the last time a sitting President spoke at MSU. It was Teddy Roosevelt, I believe, so I wasn't around, but still . . .

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Rahm Emanuel said...

Don't get too full of yourself, BDT. State had Bill Clinton in '95.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

RAHM--I guess you would know that since you worked for Clinton too. So there were two, Roosevelt and Clinton. Stevland Morris also gave a commencement speech at MSU. Without peeking, do you know what other name he goes by?

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last I knew, Teddy was on Mount Rushmore and B-Rock hard a hard time throwing a baseball to home plate during a Nationals game. Never compare the two, please.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

ANONYMOUS--Yeah, but how long did it take Obama to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Not nearly as long as it took my nephew to win at fantasy football.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ It looks pretty impressive
in the photos. I hope you enjoyed his speech.
Thanks for your comments, and yes we do have trouble with our politicians
No way would I go to a speech by our PM. Kevin Rudd. I see him on TV and that is enough.
Glad you liked the rabbit that came back and was having fun. Just as well your son's dog wasn't around there. Better armed and faster sounds like a good idea.
Take care, Regards, Merle.

6:26 AM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

West Ypsilanti!

6:04 PM  

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