Historian Ken Burns Destroys Donald Trump in Stanford Commencement Address
You thought President Obama was hard on the would-be Republican Nominee?
You thought this piece in the New York Times by Thomas L. Friedman calling for The Republican Party to reinvent itself was rough?
Well, strap yourself in and listen to Award Winning Historian Ken Burns as he demolishes Trump for the hateful, unqualified bigot that he is. It’s amazing.
For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified.
So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships.
I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and - they feel - powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that - as often happens on TV - a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.
And there’s more. So much more.
As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again - all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.
We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago.
He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.
You can see this portion of his speech here:
Or the speech in it’s entirety here: start around the 1:12:00 mark)
I know you’re busy as hell and you don’t have the time, but this is something everyone should hear. The whole speech, not just the snippets. I sat down with my children and had them watch it and listen to it. I hope you find the time to absorb all of it as well. I feel like powerful, important speeches like this are often relics of a forgotten age. But this one is here, only a few days old, giving us a historian’s view of the precarious landscape of the now.
There’s also this:
Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Listen to it on your commute home or pour yourself a glass of wine tonight, sit down and hear all of it. Bring your spouse or a friend. It’s not just the undressing of a charlatan. It spans from Lincoln’s era to our current conundrum, and somehow, like usual, Ken Burns makes it all make sense. I can’t trumpet it enough. Try to make the time.
This is an important, inspiring and timely speech that everyone should hear. I hope it moves you as much as it moved me.