Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, apparently jealous of Barack Obama, decided to deliver a seven-minute “commencement speech” that was supposed to be funny.
It wasn’t funny. It was sad.
If you’re a high school senior, class of 2020, I’m betting it struck you as particularly awful.
Sasse, who couldn’t be bothered to shave, put on a jacket, or fasten his tie properly, is apparently hoping that “jokes” in terrible taste are going to cheer up the graduating high school seniors. Here’s are some samples:
Congratulations graduates, this is a big moment. Not on graduating high school, but on making the journey down the stairs from your bedroom to the living room and putting on something slightly more formal than sweatpants.
We [parents] are all teachers now and let’s be honest, at the start of this most parents thought we would be visionary math teachers changing the world, but after about two weeks we all just decided to default into gym teachers. I’m kidding, my dad was a gym teacher. I’m serious, he used to teach English and social studies but he always aspired to get to gym so he didn’t have to put on formal clothes every day and he could wear the same sort of sweats that most your wore on the bottom half down here anyway. But anyway, I know Dad, gym is important. If you’re watching Dad, as if he’s watching, . . . like all grandparents there’s no chance he can get Zoom to work . . .
We are gonna beat the virus. We’ve got five different American pharmaceutical companies doing amazing research to develop a vaccine.
We’re gonna have to have a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.
I know I’m not supposed to say this but you’re not missing out on that much because honestly nobody, and by nobody I mean nobody, remembers anything about their high school graduation. In fact a lot of us spend a lot of our lives trying to forget as much about high school as we possibly can. . . . In fact there are a whole bunch of people who make a whole bunch of money but trying to help other people forget high school. They’re called psychologists. In fact 95% of all gainfully employed psychologists, and I’m serious there are dozens of them that are gainfully employed, their job is really just to help people forget high school, and the other 5% they just research hamsters who got lost in mazes, which come to think of it is a lot like high school. . . . There will always be money to be made in psychology. Now that’s a joke, do not, if you’re headed to college, do not major in psychology, that part’s not a joke.
We haven’t even started talking about murder hornets yet. That’s right, murder hornets. Now I know what you’re thinking, it’s not the murder hornets’ fault, if an insect grows up being called a murder hornet, you can’t be surprised when they actually start ripping the heads off of honeybees. I get it, that’s a pretty good point, we all sort of do grow into our names and by the way that’s why everybody named Jeremy is the worst. Sorry Jeremy, not my fault, blame your mom and dad.
Leaders can be funny. But don’t do this.
A few impressions.
Commencement speeches can be funny. But they shouldn’t be a joke.
Dress for the occasion. Try to inspire. At least a little bit. This is an important day in people’s lives, and if those people are high school seniors right now, they are suffering.
Slamming grandparents, gym teachers, psychologists, and people named “Jeremy” isn’t actually all that witty.
If you have questions about whether your jokes are funny, try them on somebody.
And finally: It’s a terrifying moment for all of us. If you are a leader, it’s fine if you want to drop a joke or two, but please attempt to show some leadership and inspire us — not with vague promises that somehow keep turning out to be false, but with truth.
Here’s the speech. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.