July 19, 2019 | 87° F

EDITORIAL: When seniors act like juniors ...

U. commencement speaker isn’t POTUS, stirs discontent


Graduation is a pivotal point in one’s life. It’s a ritualistic event when you get to sit in High Point Solutions Stadium for hours on a blistering hot day, wrapped in a red robe, so that you and thousands of your peers can receive diplomas and celebrate with family and friends. Graduation indicates you not only survived college, but also conquered those four arduous years and are now being ushered into the world of maturity.

Yet despite how graduation is heralded as a symbolic transition into adulthood, some people obstinately insist they are still children.

People threw tantrums because President Barack Obama won't be this year’s commencement speaker, and it is instead renowned journalist Bill Moyer. Toxic threats of walkouts as well as threats of graduation abstention circulated on the Class of 2016 Facebook page, as people vented their frustrations over not being able to get their first-choice, coveted speaker. This reaction oozes with obnoxious entitlement and gives any eminent individual more of a reason to decline an invitation to the University.

It is important to note that not everyone shares this sentiment and a number of students welcome Moyers, who has won more than 30 Emmy Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, nine Peabodys and three George Polk Awards. If he can give commencement speeches to schools like Dartmouth College, University of Texas, Austin and Brown University, he can also give a commencement speech to Rutgers. On the other hand, there are individuals who made their frustrations crystal clear. Those people can do what they like. They can sit at home and not go to graduation, if they please. It’ll just reduce traffic congestion that day and leave the rest of the graduates with more legroom at the stadium.

Disappointment over President Obama is understandable. The commotion started to build up as far back as three years ago when University President Robert L. Barchi extended the invitation to the President of the United States to be Rutgers' commencement speaker in 2016 for its 250th anniversary, and that was buttressed by the efforts of Rutgers Law School alumni, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J), who also sent letters to the president urging him to accept the invitation. Moreover, a video from RU-tv Network directed toward President Obama was uploaded on YouTube and Rutgers University Student Assembly President Matt Panconi sent a letter to the POTUS as well.

With neither a “yes” nor a “no” from Obama, tension was high among the University community as thousands clutched onto wildly high hopes. Ultimately these hopes had to come crashing down, back to reality.

Because Rutgers is having a grand celebration for its 250th anniversary, the administration emphasized that this would be a special year, with special events and special people coming. It wasn’t too farfetched to expect the POTUS to come to one of the oldest Universities, established 10 years prior to the Declaration of Independence. But looking back, it’s not surprising that President Obama didn’t respond to these invitations. Rutgers has a flourishing group of student activists, and maybe he learned something after the #NoRice movement. Also in the midst of extreme party polarization, he probably assumed his arrival in New Brunswick would've been met by protestors, which could've deterred him.

Now most of the qualms about having Bill Moyers as a commencement speaker are over his relative obscurity among this generation of college students. But would you want a celebrity to be your commencement speaker, or do you want someone who can give an inspirational speech?

While President Obama could've been the icing on the cake for Rutgers’ birthday party, there will still be a celebration without him. We can opt for a different icing — so instead of vanilla, we can get cream cheese icing or chocolate icing or no icing at all. Adulthood means knowing when to sagaciously accept wins, losses and alternatives.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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