Campus, Domestic, Opinion — May 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Obama’s Non-political Women Speech

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President Barack Obama’s speech to the Barnard College 2012 graduating class focused on how this group of smart young women can help move our country forward. His speech focused on women and how women can change the world, which is fitting as the commencement speaker for one of the world’s best women’s colleges.

photo by Asiya Khaki '09

Yes, he did lightly touch on hot political topics such as the debate in Washington over women’s health care, gay marriage, women getting equal pay for equal work, and high carbon emissions hurting the environment, but at the same time the president was not trying to sway the crowd to follow his political views. Instead he used these issues as examples for how and why his advice for the graduates is important. His advice was:

1)   Don’t just get involved in the world, fight for a seat at the head of the table.

  1. As an educated member of this country one has an obligation to seize the opportunities one has.
  2. If you chose to stay away from the limelight, you should make sure that you have a representative voice at the table.

2)   Never underestimate the power of your example.

  1. Use your strength to inspire and/or encourage the young women that follow you.
  2. Try to be a mentor or role model to the next generation of women.

3)   Always persevere.

  1. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
  2. You should go out into the world and make your mark, which is hard. Whenever the voice in your head or someone else tells you to stop trying or that you cannot achieve your goals you should look back at the history of this nation and the hard times it has faced and see that you can achieve whatever you strive for.

Over the last couple of weeks many Columbia and Barnard students have discussed the president coming to campus with a myriad of views. One common opinion was that Obama’s choice of Barnard was a purely political calculation to gain a larger amount of the women’s vote and nothing more. Now as a Barnard rising junior and political science major this always made me laugh. Every public thing a politician does purposefully is a political calculation. These calculations all have research and polls and discussions behind the decision and/or announcement, especially for an incumbent president running for re-election in a partisan political climate.

But there is also a personal reason for the president to speak at Barnard. He has two daughters and his sister went to Barnard. He clearly wanted to speak at a women’s college to support this type of institution. In part he picked Barnard because it is the women’s college to which he, as a Columbia College graduate of ’83, and his family have a personal tie. Many believed that the president was going to use this platform for a major political discussion, which he did not. Instead he gave a graduation speech full of advice and reasons why we all can hope for a better future contributed to and led by the class of 2012. He came to Barnard to give a commencement address. He did not come for a political debate or town hall, thus President Obama gave a very memorable and tasteful graduation speech, not a politically infused oration.

Yes, the whole speech was about women, as many a critic had previously mocked, but last time I checked Barnard College’s student body is 100 percent women.

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33 Comments

  1. How can Barnard be 100% female? They have not been sued for being sexist?

    • Umm….ever heard of single sex education? Many schools have this type of education. Also, why are you commenting on the Spec if you don’t know that Columbia has a women’s college?

  2. Sister? Why do we never hear about Obama’s sister? Did they have the same parents? Or is she a half-sister? Regardless, I’m sure Obama must share his wealth with his Sister and his Aunt that lives in public housing and all his other relatives. After all, if you believe in “sharing the wealth” doesn’t that mean the wealth you have also?

    • Yes, Mr. Obama has a sister. Maya Soetoro Ng. She gave the address at my 2010 graduation from University of Hawaii at Manoa…

      • @lisakauia, why did she give a speech is she famous or just famous of her half/bro Obama? believe Obama is rich he’s worth is in the millions and he wouldnt know how to share if it bite him in the a– that why he want everybody to give to him!!!!!!!!!

  3. Danielle,

    You, and the majority of the women at Barnard are being used by this president.

    Wake up!

    • Danielle:

      this was a SPEECH! Not a DISCUSSION! To have a ‘discussion’ implies ‘give & take’ on the part of the speaker & listener. Right or wrong, I assume students at Barnard are ‘upper crust’, taught liberal philosophy of liberty, equality & fraternity (oops! sorority) for everyone who looks,acts,thinks & is wealthy. I sincerely doubt if there would be a place for me, a conservative, homely, economically challenged cripple at Barnard. Obama gave the SPEECH because he was ASKED,

      • Clarification: Obama asked Barnard to speak. He was not asked. That being said, as a Barnard student I can definitely say that there is a place for everyone at Barnard including conservative, homely, economically challenged cripples. The fact that we can have a debate as to whether we agreed with the President’s motives to speak at Barnard’s graduation shows how our community at Barnard does appreciate diversity.

        • “The fact that we can have a debate as to whether we agreed with the President’s motives to speak at Barnard’s graduation shows how our community at Barnard does appreciate diversity”.-BC 2012. A debate now? Was there any debate BEFOREHAND? This was likely planned around Feb/March. You would know best, just figuring logistics here.
          I’m not being flip, but would there be a civil debate if a Repub candidate asked to address the students first? I’m just looking for an honest answer, would Santorum/RomneyGingrich been welcome? I apologize if I sound condescending or my tone comes across as snark. The reason for my question?
          “Barnard President Debora Spar, in an interview on MSNBC, boldly told the show’s hostess that “they’re [Barnard students] all huge fans [of Obama].”

      • No, He he wasn’t asked. He asked THEM if he could do this & the previously scheduled speaker, a woman, was uninvited as a result. Real classy, that. Political grandstanding is more important than respect.

    • can one be “used” if they agree to it? maybe they are like prostitutes (speaking metaphorically), ya know, they get paid, and agree to the exchange.

  4. Pingback: Obama ‘Stereotyped, Simplified and Used’ Us | PERSUASION IN INK

  5. Mmmmm mmmm mmmmm Baracka Hussein Obama.

    The ONE.

    Soon to be the Once.

    2012 – End of an Error.

  6. You’ve been pimped out, and are too stupid and ignorant to realize it. What a waste of an education.

    • Poor Danielle! In college & doesn’t know the difference between a speech & a discussion! Discussion implies ‘give & take’ between the orator & listeners. Obama spoke at Barnard because he was ASKED, OPTED for Barnard out of all the requests he received, it was politically expedient & he was PAID! It LOOKED good on the surface-would have looked better had he delivered a commencement speech at some community college in Podunkville, USA. Classes at Barnard are probably taught by far left-leaning socialist or communists who want everybody to be equally miserable-they want to redistribute your parents’ wealth until they have none, hope you don’t notice, all while preaching liberty, equality & fraternity (oops, sorority). The same left-wingers will be the 1st to cry foul when the gov’t purges the ‘intellectuals’–they’ll never see it coming & won’t have the slightest idea they caused their own demise. I’m pretty sure most students at Barnard & the institution itself would have no place/use for a poor, crippled student who constantly asked, “WHY? what makes you RIGHT? I’ll search high & low for truth, won’t accept revisionism, social/psychobabble, pedantic obfuscation as REASON!” If you, Danielle, don’t know or can’t destinguish bewteen a speech & a discussion, if you can’t tell/know when you’re being used, if you haven’t developed healthy skepticism, if you don’t watch what a politician DOES instead of believing what he says, your parents are wasting their money & you are wasting your time.

      • Daffy you are my type of conservative! I heard that “Obama” demand to speak at Barnard and he didnt give them a choice! I see that “he” only campaigns at colleges becuz they are to naive and rear liberal to realize they are being “used” and what scares me if all thse nitwits vote for “him” we are in big trouble!

      • You keep saying that. The facts say otherwise. LOOK IT UP!

    • Wow, I can’t believe you are attacking the author in the comments. Really mature and wise of you!
      Also explain how she’s been pimped out? Because she wrote her commentary on the speech? I guess Obama’s mind control minions and 1984-esque thought police are really doing their jobs, huh?

  7. I have to wonder if your summary would have been the same if say…a Republican politician had delivered the speech. Is it true that Obama did not even step foot on your campus, Barnard, but instead gave his pandering speech on the campus of Columbia? To me that speaks volumes. It’s also true that Anita Dunn, an Obama appointee said, “this place (Obama administration) would be in court for a hostile workplace (towards women)”. Dunn is a liberal yet felt compelled to reveal this little nugget of information. While promoting his baseless, “War on Women”, the Obama administration failed to mention that the Obama WH doesn’t offer the same pay to women as they do men. Not only did Bush appoint more women and minorities to positions in his administration but he offered equal pay for equal work. And someone I, an intelligent woman, am supposed to believe Obama’s pretty but meaningless words? Obama is the most divisive and hypocritical politician I have ever witnessed. I don’t need him to try and convince me that somehow, if re-elected, he will miraculously deliver all those empty promises he somehow didn’t get around to the first time, despite having both Houses for the firts two years of his term. Yes, I am a woman, not a fool. I won’t be hoodwinked a second time.

  8. The left is the most intellectually inferior group in this country. They cannot win the argument based on facts so they attempt to persuade the uninformed by distorting, deceiving, misleading and misrepresenting the facts. This mindless rhetoric may fool some but will not convince those of us who take the time to stay informed. I have yet to hear Obama speak without finding many discrepancies and distortions….and often, outright deceit. I find it disheartening that many women are so easily convinced by this empty suit. Eve was charmed by a snake. Learn to recognize the snake and you won’t need to guard yourself against his poison…hear this “liberal” women? Many of us have come a long way and use logic and reasoning to form our views and opinions. And we don’t vote for the jack*ss!

    • Your eloquent rage against those who choose not to see the empty suit for who he claims to be is breathtaking. It gives me hope that not all liberal colleges are full of dupes who chant ‘yes we can’ because they fail to think or reason for themselves. Your mind is beautiful, and I thank you.

  9. This hookup was consensual, yes? The take away is that you will do this many times in your life even though you had regrets.

  10. The take away here is whenever you hear a liberal saying anything at all, you can assume the polar opposite. They all lie and mislead the voters in order to get elected. They cannot run on their records so they go for the social justice, equality, war on women, and all the other “promises” that were made and not lived up to. Then when in office and under the somewhat closeted votes in Congress are able to vote for their true agenda. Unless the American people research their representatives and what they are doing and hold them and the Senators responsible, nothing will change. Just remember, they say “what they think you want to hear,” to get elected and they make it all sound good, then vote according to their true ideology. If you are a responsible citizen you will follow up.

  11. 1) Julia can’t fight for a seat at the head of the table while standing in line at the welfare office.

    One cannot seize opportunities if all their investment assets are taxed away and redistributed to political cronies.

    Collectives don’t represent individuals, they represent the paid political hacks at the top of the collective heap.

    2) Julia cannot set an example as she is a follower and a dependent of the patriarchal government.

    You have no strength, you don’t exist as an individual, you are simply an entity to be manipulated. Not very inspiring.

    Filling out government forms for life long dependency really isn’t that difficult and does requiring mentoring.

    3) Julia has no need to presevere, all she needs to do is hold her helpless little hand out.

    Nothing worthwhile comes from government, worth comes from doing not receiving.

    You are no longer allowed to make your mark, government will make it for you. Government will determine what your mark should be and you will obey or face the consequences of fines, penalties, or extreme taxation. You will conform or you will be destroyed by being labeled a bigot, or racist, a sell-out, or whatever new insult the collective dreams up to label you with.

  12. Collectives are not famous for their high productivity. Very soon Julia will be standing in bread lines, and stealing what she can from her job to feed her child.
    Her welfare check will be just a useless piece of paper. The keepers of the revolutionary flame and former community organizers will get their imported groceries in special distribution centers, so not to tempt the rest of the population. Hopefully there still will be countries producing enough to actually export food, because whatever happens to the masses, the ruling class must and will be fed.
    Speaking from experience (30 years in Soviet Union).

  13. I liked your article!!!!! :)

  14. “One of the world’s best women’s college [sic]”? Someone needs to work on her grammar: as in “subject-verb agreement,” or one of her reader [sic] will doubt this assertion.

  15. What is funny is that he said that women need to fight for a seat a the head of the table. Well he just took that seat at the commencement away from the original speaker. The first female editor of the NYT. Don’t be dupes again Bernard. You all just got punked…

  16. Everything that has been written here, save the few encouraging comments, are honestly nothing more than vitriol. Your debate on the difference between a “speech” and a “discussion” is merely rhetoric, and has nothing to do with evaluating the merits of this article. The points that the author makes are credible and informative. If you don’t agree with the President and his politics, that’s entirely your prerogative. But, don’t take it out on an article that is neither affirming nor negating the President’s viewpoints. While I am sure that there were political motivations behind President Obama speaking at Barnard, he was by no means asked, nor paid to do so. He called President Spar and asked her if he could speak at this year’s graduation–what an honor for the college. You might want to get your facts straight by reading The New York Times or The Washington Post, before you go around making false proclamations. As for all of these terrible comments attacking Barnard College as an academic institution, you all might do well to read up on the College. If you did, you would find that it is one of the most prestigious and selective women’s colleges in the nation, not to mention its merits as an academic institution alone. Please do not demerit this institution or my liberal arts education based on the fact that President Obama spoke at its graduation ceremony or that only women can attend. I can certainly say that my liberal arts education prepares me just as well if not better than any pre-professional education I would receive elsewhere, and attending a women’s college has been an empowering experience every step of the way. I certainly hope that the 2012 graduates of Barnard College take the advice of the President, because it will come in handy when facing the battles of hate and ignorance they will in a world where people can hide behind their computers and spew off whatever they feel like saying with little to no consequence.

  17. Why does everything turn into a vitriolic anti-Obama, anti-liberal discussion? This is Danielle’s perspective, and what she got from the speech. Attacking her by calling her a sheep or an idiot or something like that does not do anything for your points against Obama and liberals, but instead makes other groups turn away from your message. If you have a problem with Obama or liberals, articulate in a thoughtful, sensible way. Not attacking opinion writers for their thoughts and telling them they’re dumb.
    I thought it was an interesting, well written article. And I agree the speech could have been much more overtly political. And pointing out the connection Obama has to Barnard gives the speech a little more context. Especially when there have been so many attacks against Barnard for having the president speak, from both inside and outside the Columbia community.

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