The 2016 graduating class at Stanford University on Sunday became the latest to be barraged with political comments from one of the many liberal speakers invited to give commencement addresses.
Filmmaker Ken Burns showed off his knowledge of history, specifically Abraham Lincoln and his “House Divided” speech, but also took the opportunity to bash Trump.
Defeating Trump, whom Burns calls “glaringly not qualified,” is so paramount that it should be graduates’ first priority.
“So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance,” Burns said before a slew of criticism against Trump.
“As a student of history, I recognize this type,” Burns said:
He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again—all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.
Burns turned defeating Trump into a sort of crusade during his address.
“We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or ‘balance,’ or even of bemused disdain,” he said, calling Trump “an insult to our history.”
He spoke to “Vichy Republicans” who have endorsed Trump, as he “implore[d]” them to reconsider. “This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red-state/blue-state divide. This is an American issue,” he said.
The strong words against Trump weren’t the only political comments made. Burns chalked up criticism of the federal government as what “is terribly fashionable these days,” before including the Affordable Care Act as one of the many examples which make the government “the author of many of the best aspects of our public and personal lives.”
Burns blamed it on how “we live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents,” before warning “that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture…”
Burns’ political points took up a large focus of his address before he offered more typical advice to graduates.
The relevant part of commencement address starts at 1 hour and 11 minutes.