Jean Rohe, the graduating senior at the New School University who spoke just before John McCain’s commencement speech explains why she “tore McCain’s speech apart before he even opened his mouth.”
When I was selected as a student speaker for the New School commencement about two months ago I had no idea that I’d end up on CNN and in Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times, among other places, when it was all over. One day after the big event I’m still reeling from all the media attention and emails from professors, students, and other supporters from all over the country, so forgive me if my writing is a little scattered.
In my speech yesterday I had hoped to talk about social responsibility in a time of war, but in much more oblique terms. I wanted to speak about communication, and how I have found that one of my strongest and most enjoyable methods of communication is music. I wanted to talk about the New York City public school preschoolers with whom I work each week and how they’ve been empowered through music, how they’ve been able to learn linguistic and social skills by singing together. I wanted to talk about my grandfather, who, despite the fact that he has Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember even my name, still knows all the songs he sang in his youth. I wanted to talk about music as a powerful tool for peace. I wanted to encourage everyone to identify his or her talents and to always use them for the greater good.
Unfortunately, a certain not-so-dynamic duo of “centrist” politicians foiled my standard graduation speech and forced me to act. Until just the day before commencement I really hadn’t understood the gravity of the situation. I suppose I should tell the story.