Bush at Yale — Embracing Mediocrity
Excuse me if I am not charmed by President George W. Bush’s self-deprecating good humor. When he pokes fun at himself, in my opinion, he is also letting others know that, at the end of the day, the joke is on them. Consider, for example, his commencement address at Yale University. While congratulating those who earned academic honors, he reminded those with “C” averages that they, too, could become President of the United States. Sure they could, if they had the money and the hubris to shoplift Florida the same way a petty thief with light fingers cleans out the corner grocery store.
While Mr. Bush would have us consider him the “education president” — with his plans to decimate public education with private school vouchers and reduce teaching creativity to the regimentation of annual standardized tests — his fun-in-your-face Yale commencement speech suggests that he could not pass the tests he so relentlessly pushes on others. Further, it suggests that while this president speaks of educational excellence he is willing to poke fun at excellence and embrace the mediocrity he has wallowed in for much of his life.
As a White male beneficiary of affirmative action, Bush has inherited the smugness he needs to tell Yale graduates that a “C” average will do. Meanwhile, with unemployment rates rising in the African American community and with new college graduates facing employment challenges, those African Americans who get “good jobs” will have to show better than “C” grades to get a foot in the door. Of course, if they had dads like Baby Bush, then life would be nothing but a party until 40. Unfortunately, for young Black men, life begins at 13, when they are subject to adult penalties for committing capital crimes. The fact that Mr. Bush fails to understand, or address, this double standard speaks to his racial and social myopia. The same bully pulpit that he used to tell bad jokes about himself might have been used to advance important causes and speak to the great hurdles that those African Americans who graduated from Yale had cleared.
That would have required some introspection, though, and that is something that Mr. Bush does not specialize in. He delights in being portrayed as the bumbling frat boy who made good, the fella who can’t string a sentence together but can plunge a nation into war. He has the luxury of eschewing hard work in his personal life and declaring the world as nothing more than his hand-me-down oyster. Most folks “get” the hard-work message without having it preached to them, because they understand that hard work is one of their few alternatives. But the hard-work message is galling when it comes from the good-time guy who wants us all to understand that he has never had to work but so hard.
No wonder so many Yalies protested Mr. Bush’s presence on campus, with more than 200 faculty members signing a petition in protest to Bush’s receipt of an honorary degree. While protests raged, the President behaved as if his honorary degree and commencement speech were so much his due that he could be jocular about them. He was supposedly miffed that his father did not receive an honorary degree until 1991, when he had been president for more than two years. President William Jefferson Clinton never did get an honorary Yale degree, so one wonders what Baby Bush is carping about. Still, his sense of entitlement is at odds with his exhortation that those at the bottom should simply work hard and study hard to get ahead. He is hardly a poster child for those virtues.
Good-Time Bushie is actually a poster child for that warped parental adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He supports educational excellence for the masses, but delights in his own educational mediocrity. He supports hard work for the needy, but is gleeful in his self-portrayal as a frat fella. He likes tests as long as he never has to take them. He likes his midday naps and exercise sessions, especially if he can have the public pay for those excesses. But he’d deny that flexibility to others. Above all, Bushie likes a good laugh, even at his own expense. At the end of the day, though, the laugh is at the nation’s expense.
Mr. Bush must have advisers who can tell him that we use commencements to bring out the best in young people, not to remind them that life ain’t fair. He is proof positive that the prize goes not to the swift, the strong, or the best, but to the one with the most powerful daddy. Bush would serve the nation better if he would acknowledge the fact that everyone doesn’t have his advantages, and bend over backwards, in an affirmative action, to be inclusive of those who don’t have the luxury of finding easy work after they partied their way through undergraduate school. Mr. Bush would behave in a presidential manner if he were capable of the simple act of seeing the world through other’s eyes and understanding that reveling in his own good fortune may diminish the value of someone else’s hard work.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com