Have you heard the one about the Marine with the rolled-up solar panel? It wasn’t exactly
and the USO when
attempted humor during a commencement address to graduating sailors and Marines at the Naval Academy last week.
Addressing the next generation of America’s warriors, the vice president cracked a quip about how they’d just love all that green investment she and
are planning: “Just ask any Marine today, would she rather carry 20 pounds of batteries or a rolled-up solar panel, and I am positive she will tell you a solar panel—and so would he.”
Ms. Harris’s attempt at gender-inclusive, environment-friendly comedy elicited an appreciative and raucous peal of laughter—but only from her. The rest of the audience looked like they wanted to crawl under the nearest solar panel.
To be fair, It’s not easy to make culturally compliant humor. The best humor is often countercultural, even downright offensive. You can’t be woke and funny.
Picture the scene: a roomful of the vice president’s finest young staffers all wielding their critical-theory degrees from
and Amherst, brainstorming lines for an unfamiliar audience of brave young fighters.
“They’re Marines, right? Haven’t they fought a few famous battles?”
“OK. How about something about Montezuma or Tripoli?”
More googling. Awkward silence.
“Seriously? Wouldn’t that be, like, unbelievably offensive to, like, Latinx and Africans?”
“Oh right. Sorry.”
Uncertainly, “How about a gag that combines a reference to our passionate commitment to green energy with an emphasis on full gender equality?”
“Awesome. I’ll get on it.”
Ms. Harris’s face-plant was no better than her boss’s a week earlier, during his address to the Coast Guard Academy. At least Ms. Harris didn’t try to break the awkward silences after the failed jokes by telling the audience they were “really dull,” as Mr. Biden did.
Commencement speeches are a tough act; those curious occasions where faculty and parents and dignitaries smile uneasily across a generational gulf as their charges just want to get the party started.
But as I watched the performances by the commander in chief and his would-be successor, it was hard to resist the suspicion that the young patriots who have signed up for service aren’t quite aligned with the regnant ideology preached by the brass and their Democratic overlords. That perhaps they’re not quite as enthusiastic as their cravenly woke senior officers about the cultural nihilism advancing like an invading army through the country’s institutions. Some generals and admirals give the impression they are more concerned with dealing with microaggressions than those of a more macro—and kinetic—variety.
Something tells me that if you’re filled with the kind of patriotic verve that propelled you at 18 to commit to defend and if necessary lay down your life for your country, you probably have some choice words for the well-remunerated suits tasked to train the unconscious bias out of you.
There were better graduation addresses this year, ones that spoke to the values that have made this country great, rather than the bilge drained onto our hapless new young military officers.
I was at my own daughter’s graduation from the University of Notre Dame, where Mr. Biden, the second Catholic president, declined the invitation to follow most of his predecessors and give the traditional send-off to graduates of America’s pre-eminent Catholic university.
It was no loss.
a former principal of investment bank
talked movingly about what he had learned of service and duty that day when almost half of his staff were killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Then
a top executive at
and perhaps the most successful black woman on Wall Street, gave a spellbinding oration on her receipt of the university’s Laetare Medal that shook down the very thunder from the sky in its inspirational élan.
Best of all, though, might have been the speech given down the road at Purdue University by its president,
The former Indiana governor excoriated the timorous, risk-averse mindset that captured much of the elite in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In their caution and diffidence, he told the graduates, they failed this “fundamental test of leadership” by refusing to balance risks and obligations. “Certainty is an illusion,” Mr. Daniels said. “Perfect safety is a mirage. Zero is always unattainable, except in the case of absolute zero where, as you remember, all motion and life itself stop.”
It’s a very American sentiment—one that I suspect will long outlast the spasm of identity-obsessed, self-lacerating, humorless piety imposed on us by our current crop of leaders.
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