Obama’s Commencement Address: Similar to his at Knox College

James Fallows at The Atlantic has some interesting commentary about whether or not it’s okay that Obama may not write his own speeches, including his commencement address at Wesleyan. He later addresses new evidence that Obama probably wrote the speech himself: the fact that there were some very similar words from his 2005 commencement address at Knox College than many Wes Commencement attendees may find sound familiar.

Here are some parts that seem particularly similar:

Now, no one can force you to meet these challenges. If you want, it will be pretty easy for you to leave here today and not give another thought to towns like Galesburg and the challenges they face. There is no community service requirement in the real world; no one is forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and go chasing after the big house, and the nice suits, and all the other things that our money culture says that you should want, that you should aspire to, that you can buy.

But I hope you don’t walk away from the challenge. Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. You need to take up the challenges that we face as a nation and make them your own. Not because you have a debt to those who helped you get here, although you do have that debt. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate than you, although I do think you do have that obligation. It’s primarily because you have an obligation to yourself. Because individual salvation has always depended on collective salvation. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.

James Fallows ultimately finds it OK that (a) Obama may not write all his own speeches and (b) that he has repeated some material from past speeches that weren’t widely publicized. I agree and don’t blame Obama – especially since he had less than a week to plan this, while maintaining an active presidential campaign schedule – but it’s interesting nevertheless.

6 thoughts on “Obama’s Commencement Address: Similar to his at Knox College

  1. noa

    I did notice that I had read a paragraph or two of his speech before online. It’s completely legit to recycle words if they express what you want to say to graduating students in a good way.

  2. noa

    I did notice that I had read a paragraph or two of his speech before online. It’s completely legit to recycle words if they express what you want to say to graduating students in a good way.

  3. Anonymous

    Oh, please…every politician has their own speech writers who know their boss’ mind because the politicians themselves don’t have the time to write every word.Who cares if Obama’s recycling somewhat? It’s not like he gave the identical speech at Knox. He took the time to personalize it to Wes by being in on the jokes (“Wellesleyan”, anyone?) And things like service are obviously things he values and wants to share with grads, no matter what year or what campus. Knox is just nit-picking in an election where every twitch and blink are being overanalyzed to death. He needs to lighten up.

  4. Anonymous

    Oh, please…every politician has their own speech writers who know their boss’ mind because the politicians themselves don’t have the time to write every word.

    Who cares if Obama’s recycling somewhat? It’s not like he gave the identical speech at Knox. He took the time to personalize it to Wes by being in on the jokes (“Wellesleyan”, anyone?) And things like service are obviously things he values and wants to share with grads, no matter what year or what campus.

    Knox is just nit-picking in an election where every twitch and blink are being overanalyzed to death. He needs to lighten up.

Comments are closed.