Class Of 2016: Congratulations, I’m sorry


With commencement speakers offering praise, promises and possibilities to the nation’s graduates, the painful plain truth is again left unspoken

By Mark Cromer

Commencement ceremonies at college campuses have long been pomp and pageantry-filled ‘going away’ and ‘welcome aboard’ parties that are thrown simultaneously to honor the academic accomplishments of the graduates and to celebrate this next generation of American elites that will one day run the country.

While many income taxpaying Americans consider the Class of 2016—born as they were during the first term of the Clinton Administration and raised amid a culture of hovering parents that indulged their every impulse in the hope that reflexive acquiescence would be mistaken as love—and think to themselves ‘God help us all,’ it’s ultimately the class members that should be emerging from the academy with the blood draining from their faces, appearing like survivors surfacing from bomb shelters following a nuclear war to the world that awaits them.

But who wants to be a buzz kill even as the party winds down?

So when Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up to the dais in Boston in early May to offer Northeastern University’s graduating class a keynote commencement address, he came prepared with a speech that was suitably larded for the task; sugared with the traditional praise for the soon-to-be-former students and predictably rich in its assessment of the policy achievements of the administration he still serves and the agenda of the political elites that he has long represented.

After a few provincial crowd-pleasing nods to the Celtic’s and Bruin’s championship banners hanging inside the TD Garden (the historic Boston Garden was demolished in the late 1990s and replaced by a soulless arena named for a corporate bank) and an obligatory declaration that “Boston is the number one sports town anywhere” (I’d just like to see him say that in Seattle), Kerry delved in and dished up his sense of the pressing issues and promising possibilities that the Class of 2016 from Northeastern and across America will confront in the world off campus that awaits them.

And he didn’t disappoint.

Unveiling a globalist dreamscape of a borderless world no longer encumbered by such quaint notions of national identity or culture, Kerry delivered one of the most jubilant eulogies for the American nation-state ever made by a senior statesman entrusted with its very survival. Exalting the spoils of empire that have been delivered the corporatists’ Home Office now headquartered in Washington D.C., Kerry got right down to business peddling the lysergic-infused pablum that the academic institution the Northeastern students were graduating from was a “family that is unafraid, utterly unafraid, to look beyond our borders and into the future. And it’s also almost cliché to say that you have a global vision, but Northeastern really does, and it’s different…and Class of 2016, believe me, if you are mastering a technology that your parents can’t even pronounce, you are doing something right.”

That line sparked laughter and approving applause from the students, as it reaffirmed the core principles they’d been taught by the faculty since they first started being ushered carefully through the nation’s education system: you are citizens of the world first and that’s where your obligation rests, and technology is more than just a means to an end, but rather the new religion that offers our salvation.

“Northeastern’s gone global. Our leading corporations are going global,” Kerry told the graduates. “And you don’t have to be great at math to understand that our economy can’t grow if we don’t sell things to the 95-percent of the world’s customers who live in other countries.” While cloaked in cap and gown, Kerry offered a stark naked instruction to graduates that their true responsibility and commitment rested on foreign shores, where the real threats to America Inc. continue to gather.

While Kerry typically crackles with enough raw charisma to make Michael Dukakis sound like Dennis Miller, he knows enough about stand-up tragicomedy to offer predictable but reliable punch lines every now again. So advising the grads that the era of clashing civilizations was over, as to suggest otherwise would contradict the official narrative, Kerry reminded them America faced no greater threat than the virus of nationalism that still courses through its veins like a congenital defect that has not yet been corrected.

“So I think that everything that we have lived and learned tells us that we will never come out on top if we accept advice from sound-bite salesmen and carnival barkers who pretend that the most powerful country on Earth can remain great by looking inward and hiding behind walls at a time that technology has made that impossible to do an unwise to even attempt,” Kerry told his applauding audience. “The future demands from us something more than a nostalgia for some rose-tinted version of the past that did not really exist in any case. And I think that everyone here, especially the Class of 2016, understands that viscerally, internally and intellectually. You’re about to graduate into a complex and borderless world.”

The reference to ‘sound-bite carnival barkers’ was lost on no one in the audience, but Kerry had made sure of it by front-loading his address with a toast to the diversity of melanin in the graduating class, if not its ideological breadth, by noting “You really do look spectacular…just look around you, classmates of every race, religion, gender, shape and size, with 85 countries represented and dozens of languages (natively) spoken. You are the most diverse class in Northeastern’s history. In other words, you are Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” Not surprisingly, it was another applause line.

As a clear-eyed globalist that has spent his entire adult life in pursuit of an America that dies as a nation so it may be reborn as a market, Kerry knows that the titanic clash unfolding today is not one of civilizations embodied by nation-states, for we face now no competing Soviet empire nor any mortal threat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy or Imperial Japan in a bloody fight to the finish. No, the cold war that courses through America itself today is one that pits limousine globalists like Kerry and their cadres in academia and the media with nationalists still standing at the battered barricades of the working class everywhere.

And for all his cold bravado, Kerry recognizes the threat to the world order he espouses. In his younger days it was personified by other men out on the hustings, George Wallace and Patrick J. Buchanan notably among them, but today lightening has struck the heartland with a man named Trump, and for all his casual insult aside, Kerry understands that Trump represents a real and present danger to not only the ideology the elites have been pushing like street dealers all these years, but indeed a grave threat to the end result they so feverishly anticipate: A market zone called ‘America.’

Trump is a billionaire businessman, but he remains a nationalist. An unapologetic preacher of the gospel of ‘America First’—a banner he raises in the homeland, not on foreign shores—and Kerry rightly recognizes that as a spark that has now turned into a flame he fears it will sweep into a prairie fire that might engulf the golden temple the elites have come preciously close to completing.

So Kerry stood proud in the corporate temple of the ‘TD Garden’ and ministered to his young faithful.

The world is their oyster, he told them, and with Washington Apple shots to wash it down, if they but go forth and spread the word with a Jonestown smile along with their handy Bible of a smart ‘phone’ in the event they encounter dissent.

Not to let a poignant moment like a commencement address pass without some ritual defilement thrown in for good measure, Kerry evoked America’s ‘Greatest Generation’ for good measure, gracefully before President Obama flies to Japan to make a grand symbolic apology for America’s atomic knockout punches in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kerry recalled the young pilots of the United States Army Air Corps (in World War II, America’s air force was an aviation wing of the Army) that flew vital supplies from India to our ally China, which had been battling the Imperial Japanese Army since the early 1930s, long before Washington, Moscow, Paris and London recognized the mortal threat emerging from Tokyo, Rome and Berlin.

And Kerry spoke eloquently about those pilots that took off in planes that had not been thoroughly tested (if tested at all), and he acknowledged their orders to fly over enemy-infested air routes at either altitudes so high their planes might fail or attempt to evade in unchartered airspace that the last thing they saw from inside the cockpit was the side of the Himalayas seconds before impact.

Kerry told the grads that America lost over a thousand men flying those missions early in the war.

And he was right to do so.

But in saluting those pilots ultimate sacrifice, Kerry never addressed what they were willing to die for. And that was intentional, because they didn’t offer their lives for a global market. No, they were willing to die in a global firefight for a nation. They gave their lives in a faraway land for constitutional republic, flawed as it is, here at home.

And they gave their lives when they were as old as the graduates of Northeastern are as they listened to Kerry brag about a world of dissolving borders.

For the internationalist crowd, Kerry’s speech in Boston was a stemwinder that celebrated not the graduating class of Northeastern so much as it was a toast of how close they are to sealing The Deal. They stand at the tipping point in America, and they know it.

Donald Trump isn’t their enemy. It’s the people behind him and Senator Bernie Sanders that they consider the enemy. Trump and Sanders represent different heads of the same snake, and one that must be stomped.

Globalism versus nationalism, this is the war.

Mark Cal Poly 1990 Commencement
The author at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, commencement ceremonies in June 1990. We partied on as the escalating bill loomed…

And it was not wrong for Kerry to have been invited to speak at Northeastern nor was it inappropriate for him to rise to the occasion and deliver such a full-throated endorsement of a planetary corporation headquartered in America with regional offices around the world. That’s his bag. That’s his trip, if I may slip into my own generational vernacular. That’s what he does. Indeed, that’s what he gets paid to do.

So he should be understood, if perhaps not forgiven.

Perhaps the real sin isn’t so much what Kerry said as he tossed out cheap lines about Trump, but rather what he didn’t tell that sea of fresh-faced graduates that are looking at tomorrow.

What Kerry didn’t tell them, as he gushed about a world that lay awake at night worrying about America leaving the global stage, was the price their generation (not them specifically, of course, since it’s overwhelmingly the working class youth in this nation that now carry the rifles on the frontlines of our wars over franchise rights across the globe) is going to pay for the past half-century of our hubris and our appetite.

Kerry spoke eloquently of global warming, and rightly denounced those who deny not just the science but the anecdotally obvious of our warming planet, yet uttered not a sentence—not a single word—about an exploding global population of more than seven billion people that’s going to hit 10 billion in their lifetimes. He said not a word about what that means, in cold, hard terms. He spoke nothing of a 300 million-plus American population that will approach a half-billion people living in this nation in their life time, and just what that means for them—a generation that has been denied precious little.

Oil? Forget oil, we don’t need no stinking oil, but Kerry said nothing of drinkable water or a planet that’s running out of it. Oh, and we do need that stinking oil and all of that dirty coal to boot.

Kerry mocked America’s past as a “rose-colored” bit of fiction, even as he figuratively put on a beret and donned a pair of pilot shades as he started babbling about a hi-tech driven tomorrow that sounds to most Americans over 45 suspiciously like the undersea bubble cities once advertised in comic books.

Those aquatic civic utopias have yet to arrive.

But John Kerry’s fantasy of a borderless world is actually in the wings, almost a half-century in the making, though it will look nothing as advertised.

So he dare not tell the privileged few gathered before him the grim truth, lest they attempt to seize the wheel and avert the collision with what’s coming. Kerry dare not tell them that they are heading into the ‘workforce’ that remains in a nation where nearly 100 million people are either unemployed or under-employed. No, he dare not tell them that their hero Mark Zuckerberg, whom he saluted in a joke from the stage, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars demanding of our elected officials that more foreign workers be allowed into America to compete with American workers for the careers which they spent the past four years studying.

Kerry didn’t have the honesty to tell them that if America can’t or won’t save Detroit—once a keystone city that was the nation’s engine that has long since turned into a tragic tumbleweed blowing across the Interstate—then we have no business building schools, hospitals and roads in all corners of the globe save ours. Kerry encouraged them to focus on building schools for kids in Botswana, even if the kids in Baltimore get left behind.

Kerry told them this with the confidence that they understand they are not Americans anymore as much as they are citizens of the world and they need to act accordingly.

Kerry did what he was sent and invited to do. And he was a hit.

But as those mortarboard caps flew into the air, those poor kids at Northeastern, most of whom have probably never suffered a spanking at home or been in a real fistfight in the schoolyard let alone been fired from a shit job by a boss they hated, those poor bastards have no idea the swamp of chaos that awaits them.

And perhaps that’s for the better, at least for the moment.

But as Kerry flashed that big grin across his oaken face and waved himself offstage to the roar of the crowd and the beaming adoration of his press courtiers, the words of Stanley Kubrick’s Master Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket could be heard rising ever so faintly above the din…

“I’ll bet you’re the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the Goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you.”

Now that’s ‘speaking truth to power.’

But the sad fact of it is, the Class of 2016 just took one hard pounding in their culo from Kerry as everybody watched. And no, John didn’t even offer a reach-around, and he didn’t leave any money on the dresser for them either.

So Class of 2016, welcome aboard.

And congratulations, I’m sorry.