Hail To The Chief: President Obama Delivers the Rutgers University Commencement Address In New Jersey

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On a tarmac in Newark Liberty International Airport, the media is gathered for the arrival of our Commander and Chief, our President of the United States, President Barack Obama. As we eagerly wait with our cameras and microphones, it was mother nature who stole the show with an unexpected hail storm, redefining the meaning… hail to the chief.

As a journalist born on the island of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a United States territory, today marks many moments in history. May 15, 2016 marks the 250th Commencement Anniversary of Rutgers University. That means that for the past 250 years Rutgers’ faculty, staff, students and alumni have the changed the world we live in with significant discoveries and innovations.

May 15, 2016 marks the historical moment where our first African-American President will be the first sitting President to deliver a Commencement Speech at Rutgers University. President Obama will also be the 2nd sitting President, and the 7th President to receive an honorary degree from Rutgers University.

Established in 1766, Rutgers University is the eighth oldest institution of higher learning and one of the nation’s premier public research universities.  Rutgers University-New Brunswick is the only public institution in New Jersey represented in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“President Obama’s decision is a testament to the enthusiastic efforts of Rutgers students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, who sent numerous messages to the White House urging the President to join our 250th anniversary graduation ceremony” said Rutgers University President Robert Barchi.

For me, on May 15, 2016, as I sit here amongst my fellow colleagues from various media outlets, I represent the progress of America in the past 250 years. I represent the freedom and liberties that my forefathers died for, so I will not be judged by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character.

I represent the equality that many women fought for, in order to ensure that women’s rights are human rights.  I represent with great respect and gratitude with a humble heart… Pride.  Pride in my country and in the man, with deep respect, I call the President of the United States.

I represent those who live on the island of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands who cannot vote in the Presidential Elections, but yet their voices are heard loud and clear. I am their voice. I am their voice that speaks loud and clear in unison alongside other Virgin Islanders who lives outside the territory on the mainland.  We vote for those who cannot. We speak for those who cannot. We write for those who cannot.  We vote in solidarity with high hopes that someday that our children of the U.S Virgin Islands, who will grow into adults of the U.S. Virgin Islands, will have the same rights and privileges to vote in the Presidential Elections in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, but I am proof that progress does happen. Our 44th President of the United States, with a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, born in Hawaii, is proof that progress does happen in America.

“Suggesting that we can build an endless wall along our borders, and blame our challenges on immigrants — that doesn’t just run counter to our history as the world’s melting pot; it contradicts the evidence that our growth and our innovation and our dynamism has always been spurred by our ability to attract strivers from every corner of the globe.  That’s how we became America.  Why would we want to stop it now?” said President Obama to an applauding Rutgers crowd.

The President’s speech hit many political points, which most speeches made by Presidents during commencement season often do.  President Obama spoke of the serious issue of global warming and stress the importance of helping others in order to help ourselves. “If you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from,” said President Obama. He further adds “Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be: In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,”

If the contribution of the students, faculty, staff and alumni in the last 250 years is any indication of what’s to come, the next 250 years will be what history books are made of, with the members of the Rutgers’ Class of 2016 being the trailblazers.  There is no doubt you will find Rutgers behind the best of what has been… and what will be.

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