PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - President Barack Obama used his commencement address at Rutgers University Sunday to deliver a barely concealed critique of Donald Trump and told the roughly 12,000 graduates that recent history had proved that the toughest challenges cannot be solved in isolation.
But he also took to task Rutgers students whose protests led to former Secretary of State Condoleezza backing out of the 2014 commencement address.
And don’t forget the Bruce Springsteen reference and jokes about New Jersey’s favorite breakfast meat.
COMMENCEMENT POLITICS: Rice was invited to deliver the 2014 address, but backed out after students protested over her involvement in former President George Bush’s policies in Iraq.
“I think that’s misguided. I don’t think that’s how democracy works best when you’re not even willing to listen to each other,” Obama said.
Rice, back then, said that commencement should be a time of joyous celebration and her invitation had become a distraction.
Obama says he disagreed with many Bush administration policies, but criticized those who created an atmosphere that caused her to pull out.
A GRANDMOM’S LETTERS: Obama cited the more than two-year campaign by school officials, the state’s congressional delegation and students to convince him to come to deliver the commencement speech during Rutgers’ 250th anniversary year.
But he said it was a series of three letters from the grandmother of Rutgers’ student body president that sealed the deal.
“That was smart because I have a soft spot for grandmoms,” Obama said.
SPRINGSTEEN: It wouldn’t be a speech from a Democratic politician in New Jersey without at least one Bruce Springsteen reference.
Obama referenced a lyric from Springsteen’s song “Badlands,” when he warned the graduates not to “spend their lives waiting for a moment that just don’t come.”
“Don’t let that be you,” he told them.
TAYLOR HAM OR PORK ROLL?: Obama told the graduates that he came to address New Jersey’s biggest controversy, whether the state’s favorite breakfast meat should be called Taylor Ham or pork roll.
“I came here for a simple reason, to finally settle that pork roll vs. Taylor Ham question,” Obama said. “I’m just kidding. There’s not much that I’m afraid to take on in my final year in office, but I know better than to get in the middle of that debate.”
Obama also gave a shoutout to the “Fat Sandwiches” sold from grease trucks on campus, including mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers on a cheesesteak.
“I’m sure Michelle would approve,” he said of the health conscious first lady.
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