President Obama delivered the commencement address at San Diego State University today, and told graduates to “tamp down those lofty expectations,” in order to not be greatly disappointed later in life. Many members of the audience seemed confused, offering only lukewarm applause when Mr. Obama was finished speaking.
“This is not a time to be a dreamer,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a time for pragmatism, realism. Could you be a doctor, a lawyer, a famous person who changes the world? Perhaps. In some great accident of chance, perhaps. But in the real world, nine out of ten of you can’t do more than hold down a job in middle management. Admitting that to yourselves now will save you and your family a whole lot of heartbreak down the road.”
Some graduates said they were disappointed, even upset by the president’s remarks.
“I was really excited when I heard he was going to be speaking,” said Angela Loftino, 21. “But then he was just the most depressing person I’ve ever heard speak anywhere. Ever. It was worse than a funeral. At least with a funeral, you don’t have all this hope going in that it’s going to be uplifting.”
Daniel Orbason felt much the same way. “After he finished, all I wanted to do was run back and see if I could still fail a class, so I wouldn’t have to graduate.”
Mr. Obama, whose life story millions of people have found inspiring, said his own story was just that – his own.
“I hear all the time, ‘Oh, you’ve inspired me to try to be president,’” he said. “‘I know now that I can do it, because you did it.’ Well, let me clear this up once and for all. You’re you. I’m me. Did you grow up like me? No. Do you have a grandmother in Kenya? I doubt it. Did you edit the Harvard Law Review? Let’s not be ridiculous. So we’re not the same, you and I. We are very, very different.”
“People,” the president concluded, “you’re not going to be President. None of you. I’d bet a million dollars on it. My advice is, look for something secure, with good health benefits. Something simple, where you don’t have to use your mind all that much, or make decisions that affect large numbers of people. For God’s sake, don’t overshoot. That’s my message to you: Aim low. Thank you.”