Commencement 2013: Anderson Hits the Bull’s Eye while Obama Misses the Mark

On May 4, 2013, Heritage’s Ryan T. Anderson delivered remarks as Regent University’s commencement ceremony as keynote speaker.  His words were inspiring, deeply philosophical, and deeply theological.  Anderson focused largely on love, truth, and responsibility.  He challenged the graduates to meditate upon these things, and then to live them out.

His words were so inspiring he was one of the Blaze’s 5 of the Best Conservative Commencement Speeches of 2013

Anderson said things about family and religion that would probably make another 2013 commencement speaker – President Obama – cringe.   On May 19, President Obama spoke to the graduates of Morehouse College where he too spoke about responsibilities.

But Anderson’s and Obama’s recommendations for how to live out those responsibilities are completely different.

Obama gave the graduates he addressed the following advice:

My job, as President, is to advocate for policies that generate more opportunity for everybody — policies that strengthen the middle class and give more people the chance to climb their way into the middle class.  Policies that create more good jobs and reduce poverty, and educate more children, and give more families the security of health care, and protect more of our children from the horrors of gun violence.  That’s my job.  Those are matters of public policy, and it is important for all of us — black, white and brown — to advocate for an America where everybody has got a fair shot in life.  Not just some.  Not just a few. 

But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities…  As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect — and that’s the power of your example.

If he is truly concerned about good jobs and reducing poverty, he would do well to listen to Anderson’s words:

We know that the market economy—along with families headed by married couples—has done more to lift people out of poverty and into a flourishing life than any other institution. 

But we know that President Obama is more interested in centralizing power and control in Washington, putting decision making in the hands of bureaucrats, than in honoring free market principles that have brought so much prosperity to this country.  As Heritage explains, Obama’s budget has a “general attitude” that “the economy cannot grow without the guidance of a domineering central government.”

If he is truly concerned about educating more children, he could take the advice Anderson gave to Regent graduates, who will be tomorrow’s mothers and fathers:

Your children will be educated in this society. And as mothers and fathers you have the responsibility to care for and educate your children.

As conservatives we believe in empowering parents and local communities to educate our children, not D.C. bureaucrats.  Obama does the opposite and there is absolutely no evidence Common Core will improve the educational outcomes of American children.

If he is truly concerned about gun violence, he should know that the Senate’s gun bill would have done nothing to protect people from gun violence, and that the solution does not lie in Washington.

If he is truly concerned with ensuring more families can access quality healthcare, Obamacare is not the answer. Yet, he made a pitch for Obamacare as well:

So starting October 1st, because of the Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — you’ll be able to shop for a quality, affordable plan that’s yours and travels with you — a plan that will insure not only your health, but your dreams if you are sick or get in an accident.  But we’re going to need some doctors to make sure it works, too.  We’ve got to make sure everybody has good health in this country.  It’s not just good for you, it’s good for this country.  So you’re going to have to spread the word to your fellow young people. 

A plan that will ensure your dreams?

That statement speaks volumes.  President Obama is convinced that an expansive government is the solution to all of our problems and the key to all of our dreams.  It’s certainly not.  Anderson reminded the Regent grads that people like Obama will continue to make such claims though:

You will hear others claim a right to fulfill their desires without consequence, without judgment, but with subsidies. (Just think of the Life of Julia.)

We all remember that unsettling campaign tool, the Life of Julia, wherein the oppressive, guiding hand of big government is there every step of the way during a woman’s life, from birth to old age.  And that remains Obama’s fundamental message.

He believes that government is the only thing that unites us.  Obamacare is probably his biggest legislative embodiment of that belief.  But Obamacare won’t help us fulfill our dreams.  It will, however, crush our religious freedom.  Anderson explained why religious freedom is so important:

Our Founding Fathers enshrined religious liberty as our first right because while we should render that which is Caesar’s to Caesar, we must render to God that which is God’s. Caesar will never like this, for it implies that Caesar isn’t God—that there are obligations higher than those to the state; that the state is necessarily limited. 

President Obama would do well to read Ryan Anderson’s commencement address, because he is very confused about truth and responsibility and the proper role of government in our lives.



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