The differences in both substance and tone between President Obama’s speech at Barnard College in New York on Monday and Mitt Romney’s commencement address on Saturday at Liberty University (the evangelical institution in Lynchburg, Va.) could not have been more pronounced.
Obama – an alumnus of Columbia – used his time to campaign for the women's vote: He told students to “fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for your seat at the head of the table.” Romney, meanwhile, just days after Obama had announced his support for gay marriage, told the audience of Christian conservatives exactly what they wanted to hear: “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
OBAMA: On Being Active Citizens of the U.S.
“It’s up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely. It’s up to you to stand up and be heard, to write, and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote. Don’t be content to just sit back and watch.”
ROMNEY: Resurgence in Our Economy Can ‘Surprise the World’
“Even though job opportunities are scarce in this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time preparing…. America needs your skill and talent. If we take the right course, we will see resurgence in the American economy that will surprise the world, and that will open new doors of opportunity for those who are prepared as you are.”
OBAMA: On How to Succeed in Today’s Economy
“Just as you were starting out finding your way around this campus, an economic crisis struck that would claim more than 5 million jobs before the end of your freshman year. Since then, some of you have probably seen parents put off retirement, friends struggle to find work. And you may be looking toward the future with that same sense of concern that my generation did [in the early ‘80s] when we were sitting where you are now…
“As young people, in many ways you have it even tougher than we did. This recession has been more brutal, the job losses steeper. Politics seems nastier. Congress more gridlocked than ever. Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens.
“No wonder faith in our institutions has never been lower… My job today is to tell you, Don’t believe it. As tough as things have been, I am convinced you are tougher… This county would be better off if more Americans were able to get the kind of education that you’ve received here.”
ROMNEY: The ‘Power of Values’
“The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.
“The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention. For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2 percent. But, if those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor. Culture matters.”