The PJ Tatler

Obama to Joplin Grads: The Future's So Bright, Here are My Downers

President Obama told teens who had survived an EF-5 tornado that they’d meet all sorts of nasty people in life, but that they’d be prepared for it.

Flying to Missouri after the NATO summit in Chicago, Obama gave the commencement address tonight at Joplin High School.

“I imagine that as you begin the next stage in your journey, you will encounter greed and selfishness; ignorance and cruelty,” Obama told the kids in prepared remarks. “You will meet people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down; who believe looking after others is only for suckers.”

“But you are from Joplin,” he added to his downer note. “So you will remember, you will know, just how many people there are who see life differently; those who are guided by kindness and generosity and quiet service.”

The president edged into a campaign-style tone as he continued.

“As you take on the roles of colleague and neighbor and citizen, you will encounter all kinds of divisions between groups – divisions of race, and religion, and ideology. You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable; who prefer to play up their differences and instead of focusing on what they have in common, or where they can cooperate,” Obama said. “But you are from Joplin.  So you will know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most.”

So soon after handing a faux Post-It “to-do list” of agenda items to Congress, Obama noted that “every citizen was handed a Post-It note, and asked to write down their goals and their hopes for Joplin’s future” at the first post-twister town meeting.

“My deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you will bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel and everything you do. You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone; that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves. We need each other. We’re important to each other. We’re stronger together than we are on our own,” he said.

“…You’re the ones who will help build an economy where every child can count on a good education; where everyone who is willing to put in the effort can find a job that supports a family; where we control our own energy future and we lead the world in science and technology and innovation.  America will only succeed if we all pitch in and pull together – and I’m counting on you to be leaders in that effort.”

The White House pool reporter noted that Obama dropped in unannounced on grads as they wear getting ready in the gym at Southern Missouri State University. About half of the seniors rushed to meet the president, but the other half stayed where they were.