A Nebraska senator has been widely criticized for making eyebrow-raising comments during a high school commencement speech.
On May 16, Fremont High School hosted a virtual graduation ceremony for its class of 2020. Among the speakers was Sen. Ben Sasse, who graduated from the school in 1990.
In an approximately 8-minute speech, an unshaven Sasse begins his speech by seemingly offering his heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class and their families before suggesting that China was responsible for the global lockdown and current health crisis.
“Congratulations, parents, teachers and coaches — not that there’s any meaningful distinction among those categories anymore at this point,” he says. “If you’re a parent, you’re a teacher. Thanks a lot, China. We’re all teachers now.”
Sasse then rambles a bit before claiming that the newly minted high school graduates are not physically fit.
“Graduates, adults don’t tell you this, but once or twice a week in real-world life, someone’s going to ask you to climb a giant rope,” he says. “No reason. Just climb the rope. Sure, every now and then, the rope is a metaphor, but, honestly, most of the time, it’s just a big rope and you have to climb it. If you don’t get that joke, talk to your mom and dad back in the day when we were a lot fitter than you people are.”
The senator continues by suggesting that, generally speaking, high school graduations are often forgettable and later rants about psychologists, asserting that psychologists spend 95 percent of their time helping scarred high school graduates and the remaining 5 percent researching “hamsters lost in mazes.”
“In fact, there are a whole bunch of people who make a whole bunch of money by just trying to help other people forget high school,” Sasse says. “They’re called psychologists.”
The senator then circles back to China, suggesting that Fremont graduates will remember their ceremony because China “started a big, global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees,” forcing the students to “graduate” at home.
At one point, Sasse makes an odd comparison between Asian giant hornets — more commonly known as “murder” hornets — and people named Jeremy.
In trying to put the students’ graduation in perspective for them, Sasse concludes his speech by maintaining that Americans will beat the current pandemic and stating that the country will have “a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control while lying about it.”
“You’re entering adulthood during an incredibly disruptive time,” he tells the graduates. “But you know what that means? It means the fact that you’re going to need grit and determination and resilience. It isn’t just euphemism. It isn’t just rhetoric. It’s reality.”
The commencement speech, which was circulated on YouTube, drew condemnation from Nebraska State Sen. Adam. Morfeld, who mocked Sasse on Twitter.
“Can’t say that I have ever watched a high school commencement address where someone suggests that they are overweight, repeatedly blames China for ruining their ceremony, and insults psychology majors and anyone named Jeremy but [Ben Sasse] pulls it off!” Morfeld wrote on Twitter.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb also chimed in.
“Ben Sasse won’t apologize,” she wrote on Twitter. “He won’t explain why he showed up without shaving and looking a mess. Graduating high school is a memory our kids and families cherish and [Ben Sasse] decided to use the moment to practice ‘jokes.'”
In response to the backlash, a spokesperson for Sasse’s office hit back.
“Like he said in the video greeting, Ben’s proud of each of the graduates — and he believes their generation is tough enough to help lead us through the bumpy economic times ahead,” the spokesperson told KMTV. “It’s ridiculous that Chris Janicek and the Nebraska Democratic Party are complaining about Ben calling out China in a joke. He’s said this for months, because it’s true: The Chinese Communist Party’s coronavirus cover-up wasted time that could have contained the spread — those lies cost innocent lives in China and around the world. Pretending graduates are too fragile to hear the truth is silly.”
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