From Biden to Butker, the biggest graduation speeches so far this year

From Biden to Butker, the biggest graduation speeches so far this year

The tumultuous academic year is coming to a fittingly high-profile end for the college class of 2024, though thus far, the commencement speech that raised the most eyebrows had nothing to do with Israel’s war in Gaza.

From the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that affected President Biden’s address this weekend to the viral remarks made by Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker regarding women and their future, here are the most attention-grabbing speakers from this year’s graduation ceremonies:

Harrison Butker at Benedictine College  

Butker ignited a firestorm with his speech at a small Catholic school in Kansas, where he told female graduates that they might find more satisfaction being wives and mothers than they would through their careers.

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career?” he asked.

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” Butker added.

“I say all of this to you because I’ve seen it firsthand … how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will in their life,” the kicker said.

Butker also blasted Biden for “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America,” and he took a shot at Pride Month in June, saying the graduates need Catholic pride and “not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it.”

He also denounced the “the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion,” abortion, in vitro fertilization and the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica do not believe that Harrison Butker’s comments in his 2024 Benedictine College commencement address represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested,” the nuns affiliated with the school said.

The NFL has also sought distance from the speech.

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” a league official said in a statement. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

A petition has been started to try to get the player fired over his remarks.

But conservatives have rallied to his side, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) saying on the social media platform X that he’s never been “more proud to call Harrison Butker my friend.”

Biden at Morehouse College

Biden’s commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday was backdropped by the weeks of pro-Palestinian protests that have afflicted campuses recently, with some fearing his graduation speech could be a prime target for demonstrations.

While his 30-minute speech largely focused on the struggles of the 2024 graduates faced and domestic issues, Biden gave a direct appeal to students about the situation in Gaza.

“Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them,” he said.

“It’s one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world,” Biden added, referring to the war. “There’s nothing easy about it. I know it angers and frustrates many of you, including my family. But most of all I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well.”

He also highlighted that he has called for a cease-fire in the region.

While some students and faculty turned with their backs toward the president during the speech or wore symbols associated with the Palestinian movement, he did not face a mass demonstration.

Biden applauded after the class valedictorian, DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher, called for the release of hostages and an “immediate and permanent” cease-fire in the conflict.

Jerry Seinfeld at Duke University

Dozens of Duke students walked out of the graduation speech given by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who has been largely supportive of Israel in its war against Hamas.

Graduates left while chanting Palestinian slogans, and others remained behind loudly chanting “Jerry” in response.

The speech largely focused on general life advice for students along with some jokes.

One joke hinted at the tension in the room.

“I grew up a Jewish boy from New York,” he said. “That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian.”

Chris Pan at Ohio State University

Chris Pan, an Ohio State alumnus and the founder of MyIntent, gave a highly unusual commencement address that led the audience to look around in confusion as he called people to get up and sing with him.

Pan, who said he used psychedelic drugs to write the address, wanted his speech to focus on “financial, emotional and spiritual freedom,” he told 10TV.

The entrepreneur had a rough start when he tried to praise cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which drew boos from graduates.

“I know this might feel polarizing, but I encourage you to keep an open mind,” Pan said. “Right now, I see Bitcoin as a very misunderstood asset class.”

Pan then asked the president of the school to get up, along with family and friends, as he led a sing-along of “What’s Up?” by the 4 Non Blondes.

But the second time Pan looked to start a singalong during the speech, annoyed comments could be heard in the stands and fewer people tried to join in.

Pan was panned on social media, with The Columbus Dispatch calling his speech “bizarre.”

“That was certainly an interesting speech, I would say very nontraditional. There were some that liked it and a lot that didn’t,” Ohio State President Walter E. Carter Jr. said after the event.

Bernie Sanders at the University of New England

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) used his commencement address at the University of New England to lament one of his preferred topics, the current state of the U.S. health care system. The university holds Maine’s only medical colleges.

“I wish I could tell you that, out there, you are going to be able to move aggressively to take care of the people of our region and country in the best way possible, but if I told you that, I would be lying to you,” Sanders said to the graduates.

The senator attacked the high cost of health care along with the amount of school debt medical professionals normally take on to work in the field.

Sanders did have some words of encouragement for the graduates, saying they need to provide the “best quality care you can” and that “I know you can do it.”

The senator has long called for free universal health care and spent much of his 2016 and 2020 presidential runs advocating for “Medicare for All.”

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