Editorial, 5/20: Sasse let down seniors with speech

Editorial, 5/20: Sasse let down seniors with speech

Senators Speech Criticism

Sen. Ben Sasse speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing May 5 on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Ben Sasse wrote a book called “The Vanishing American Adult.”

After his video graduation address Saturday to the Class of 2020 at his alma mater, Fremont High School, there seems to be one fewer.

Sasse turned what could have been a life-changing event – graduating amid the greatest crisis this nation has seen in at least a half-century – into part political rally, part stand-up routine. Comedy is hard. Even the pros get it wrong sometimes. But Sasse’s video for graduating seniors was especially cringeworthy.

His repeated digs at China’s role – never mentioning that the U.S. had any culpability for where the nation sits today – were in poor taste, emphasized our victimhood and set an immature tone. A far better point might have been whatever happened in China happened in China. When the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., we needed to take responsibility for ourselves and our well-being. 

Some of China's actions invite criticism. But a high school commencement address was neither the time nor the place for it.

And woe to any graduates named Jeremy, anyone not fit enough to climb a rope to the gym ceiling or anyone thinking of going into psychology. Sasse turned his not-well-tuned comedy chops onto all them to poor effect.

Back in 2014, prior to his election, this is what the editorial board had to say about him: “… Ben Sasse, brilliant, articulate and approachable. A self-described constitutional conservative with core values that have made him the darling of various conservative organizations, Sasse may be destined to make his mark on history.”

Sasse has been admired, even by those not of his party, for his intellect, eloquence and, at times, his courage. He has traded on his maturity.

Scant weeks ago, the Journal Star editorial board again endorsed Sasse for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the primary election, praising the way he has brought attention to Nebraska issues in the Senate.

He’s brought himself more attention with Saturday’s graduation address – not much of it good.

Unshaven, wearing a rumpled white shirt and loosely knotted tie, our junior senator appeared to be trying to be a bit of a bad boy. It’s certainly not a sin to try to be funny and fail. But he took a very special event down with him.

Fremont’s graduating class deserved better. And the shame of it is, Ben Sasse is capable of better.

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