During the speech, the Republican senator — a 1990 Fremont High School graduate — insulted China, people named Jeremy and the profession of psychology, while he also implied that the graduating seniors were physically out-of-shape and lazy.
“Congratulations, graduates, this is a big moment,” he began. “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. Your grandparents are proud of you, we’re all proud of you, it took a lot of effort, we want to recognize your sacrifice.”
Sasse’s Speech Featured Rope, Murder Hornets And Tiger King
Very quickly into the speech, Sasse insinuated that the graduates were in worse physical shape than when he and his peers were at Fremont:
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 … Sure, every now and then, the rope is a metaphor, but honestly, most of the time, it’s just a big rope. 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, we used to have to climb ropes all the way up to the ceiling of the gym all the time.
Later on, he joked about people named Jeremy: “We all sort of do grow into our names and that’s why everybody named Jeremy is the worst. Sorry, Jeremy, not my fault, blame your mom and dad.”
Sasse minimized the significance of high school graduation ceremonies, telling the students they weren’t missing out on much because no one remembers their graduation.
He also seemed to mock the profession of psychology:
There are a whole bunch of people who make a whole bunch of money by just 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,” he added, before taking the statement back. “No, that’s a joke. Do not, if you’re headed to college, do not major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.”
Some of the more widely criticized and political moments came when Sasse continuously blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent social-distance lifestyle adjustments. For example, when mentioning that the distinctions between teachers and parents had all but gone away because schools were closed, he added, “Thanks, China.”
He also said graduates would recall their high school graduation and say, “Remember that time when China started a big global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees and we had to stay home and everybody was hoarding toilet paper.”
Near the end of the speech, Sasse also referred to “thugs in China” who were to blame for the coronavirus outbreak’s spread:
We will bring the economy back. We are going to beat the virus … We’re going to have to have a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.
Why am I giving you all this bad news? Well, between the pandemic and the murder hornets and the fact that the Tiger King lady definitely killed her husband and the black hole — that shouldn’t be between, that should be among — but among all those things, you’re stuck at home for graduation and that’s really not even a top 100 problem. But I get it, this not the way you wanted today to go down and, you know, all joking aside you are graduating in the midst of two crises.
Many Nebraskans Were Not Amused by Sasse’s Speech
Sasse ended the speech on an inspirational note:
Your generation is going to have a big calling … You all have the potential to have grit and resilience and determination to get through this. You’re going to pull us through this thing … Your families and your communities are proud of you. Get ‘er done.
But that wasn’t enough for many of the viewers or even school administrators.
In a Facebook post, Fremont school board member Michael Petersen expressed disappointment in Sasse’s speech and said the senator should apologize.
In replying to Petersen’s comment, one woman wrote on Facebook, “My son watched the video with his cousin who graduated and he came home so upset about that speech. How shameful of that man to ruin such a moment.”
Another said the school should edit Sasse’s speech out of the video. Petersen said that was one of the options the school was considering
The Nebraska Democratic Party even put together a video of Sasse’s “greatest hits” during the speech:
James Wegmann, Sasse’s spokesman, defended the senator’s remarks as jokes and said the comments about China were true, the Associated Press reported.
It’s ridiculous that some politically addicted folks 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 coverup 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.