In a brilliant address, Obama rebukes Trump’s anti-intellectualism.
Delivering a commencement address at Rutgers University Sunday, President Obama stressed “reason” over “anti-intellectualism,” in a potent critique of Donald Trump and his know-nothing followers.
Though he did not explicitly name Trump, Obama mocked the bloviating reality television star and GOP presumptive nominee:
Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science: These are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy…. That might seem obvious…. We traditionally have valued those things, but if you’re listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from.
When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.
Speaking to a cheering crowd of more than 50,000 people in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Obama said:
Let me be clear as I can be: In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. It’s not challenging political correctness… that’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.
President Obama ridiculed Trump’s idea of building a wall on the border:
Obama also mocked Trump’s idea of banning a whole religion from entering the country:
The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that…
Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting they should be treated differently when they come to this country, that is not just a betrayal of our values—that’s not just a betrayal of who we are—we alienate the very communities at home or abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism.
Obama even referenced Carl Sagan in denouncing the current strain of anti-intellectualism:
The rejection of facts, the rejection of reason and science – that is the path to decline. It calls to mind the words of Carl Sagan, who graduated high school here in New Jersey – he said: ‘We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depths of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.’
And Obama even called on the founding fathers in his argument against anti-intellectualism, noting their love of reason, and their disdain for religious superstition and sectarianism:
Look, our nation’s Founders — Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson — they were born of the Enlightenment. They sought to escape superstition, and sectarianism, and tribalism, and know-nothingness.
Bottom line: Obama’s commencement speech at Rutgers was a brilliant rejection of anti-intellectualism, and a powerful analysis of the contemporary political scene; an analysis filled with humor, optimism, and wisdom.
Watch the full address below, and go here for the complete text of Obama’s speech.