May 14th, 2009
04:50 AM ET
9 years ago

Obama turns controversy into jokes, lesson at commencement

President Obama addresses the graduating class at Arizona State University on Wednesday.

President Obama addresses the graduating class at Arizona State University on Wednesday.

TEMPE, Arizona (CNN) - President Obama on Wednesday turned a flap over his commencement speech at Arizona State University into a joke - then a lesson about never being satisfied with one's accomplishments.
The university said last month that it would not be awarding Obama an honorary degree at the ceremony, saying that "his body of work is yet to come."

Saying he wanted to address "the little controversy everyone was talking about a few weeks back," Obama said, "we all learned an important lesson."

"I learned to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket," he said, referring to the school's basketball team. "It won't happen again."

"President [Michael] Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS," he joked.

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Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Nando

    They will not be lauging when the Men in Black Suits show up !! Keep playing around with this President Right Wing Nut Jobs he is slowly daily sending you and your Party to HADES !!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 14, 2009 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  2. Candy West Virginia

    President Obama is a constitutional law scholar and yet they couldn't give him an honorary degree?? Incredible. Anyway he just converted over 70,000 to vote for him in 2012 so it's ok. I sure wish I could have been there.

    May 14, 2009 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  3. Samoset

    Proud to have a President who can take a disrespectful decision (the silly college has historically honored several people with a lot less "body of work" than being President of the USA – one senator after 4 years in the senate) and turn it into a positive statement and a positive lesson.

    May 14, 2009 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  4. Mike from Canada

    IMHO, if not now at least by year's end, the United States will become the envy of the world by their excellent choice of a brilliant, oratorical and inspiring person to the top job in the nation. Even he acknowledges that he too is "learning on the job". No longer do I cringe in anticipation/fear when the American Commander-in-Chief is beamed to the world being interviewed or giving a commencement speech. A refreshing change to your 2000-2008 administration.

    In the vernacular of "Star Trek", live long and prosper, Mr. Obama!

    May 14, 2009 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  5. Mark

    This idiot is going to bankrupt the US.

    May 14, 2009 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  6. N. E. Ocon

    How cute. Now, can I see the pictures of how my tax dollars are being spent in Iraq?

    May 14, 2009 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  7. magella

    As usual, dignity, grace and class. Many people can learn from this man–even those that don't always agree with him. He always takes the high road and doesn't "sweat the small stuff," which I wish could be said about Republicans commenting on every last thing the president does.

    May 14, 2009 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  8. JB

    I am not one of those yahoos that thinks if you do not like Obama as a politician, you must be a racist. I understand that it IS POSSIBLE (and in most cases the real reason) why people are opposed to him, his policies. However, you read stories like this, and you gotta like the guy. Not the President necessarily, but the guy. It is possible to dislike a President with a spending agenda unlike any other in history. And it doesn't matter how we got here (just to cut off you whining "but GWB put us here"), there were different thoughts on how to get out of the mess, and some of them did not inlcude spending 3.9 trillion, or trying to revamp a health care program, to mimic a failing social security system. That said, I would love to have a beer with Obama.

    May 14, 2009 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  9. vette78man

    Nice style and grace and humor. Such a refreshing change from previous years of frat names and vindictiveness.

    May 14, 2009 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  10. TCM

    I wonder if he's going to joke about abortion as well...oops, no wait, that probably won't be on the teleprompter....

    May 14, 2009 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  11. Susan

    You may not like his politics, but Barack Obama is a funny guy. And he's getting better at delivering with a straight face.
    I happen to think he's doing a great job, and that ASU will regret not honoring him with a degree yesterday. How stupid was that? And yet, he turned it into the basis of his speech. The guy has class.
    Now, I do think he needs to release the photos, stop the bombings, and bring the troops home now.

    May 14, 2009 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  12. Larry

    "President [Michael] Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS," he joked.Obama probably isn't joking.

    May 14, 2009 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  13. Body of work for Obama is scary

    Thus far the body of work for Obama is dowright frightening

    (: Obama has put us at risk on homeland security
    (: Oblamo is digging us into a hole in Afghanistan by escalating there
    (: Obama is bankrupting us with pork barrel spending and unheard of deficits
    (: Obama is socializing the country at the expense of our free market economy
    (: Obama's actions will devalue the US dollar throwing us into a deeper recession
    (: Obama is wasting trillions and will cause Social security to go bankrupt

    May 14, 2009 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  14. dominican mama 4 Obama

    This President is such a class act!! Most folks would've ignored the criticism, he, however, addresses it head on and comes off humble and down-to-earth in the process!!

    I love our president!! May God bless him and his family.

    Obama/whoever '12!

    May 14, 2009 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  15. Shell Hari

    Mr. President, I am so proud of you because when people try to get under your skin and discombobulate you, you always find a way to show them that you are wiser, smarter, cool, collect and at peace with yourself and your ideals. I must admit very seriously that any one who follows you as president has a bigger shoe to fill than in the past because you have really transformed the office of president in the few months you have been on the job than any president in the past. May God continue to guide you and your family, and direct your path in all you do.

    May 14, 2009 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  16. James

    This is the way a President is suppose to talk to his/her fellow citizens. He is to work hard for them when they are in dire need, motivate them, lead them, and above all – inspire them to do great things – not just for their own benefit, but rather for all of us as a whole. This is what defines not just the character of a President, but the overall character of a new era here in the United States of America.

    May 14, 2009 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  17. rachel.

    Nice, he was funny. I would like to see some of Hillary commencement speach at NYU too.

    May 14, 2009 08:17 am at 8:17 am |

    "never being satisfied with one's accomplishments."
    I have been for many years, and this is why I have decided to go back to school! Thank you Mr. President..... you are a great example.

    May 14, 2009 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  19. John in Ohio

    Great president.

    May 14, 2009 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. Casy

    I know the moderators are not going to post this but it is reporting like this that is contributing to CNN's HUGE ratings decrease!!

    The more you do these syrupy stories on Obama and his wife, the more viewers you are going to lose to Fox News!!

    I predict that once you get off of the cheerleading squad and start doing some real reporting, you will see an increase in ratings until then, you are going to stay WAYYY in the background of Fox and even MSNBC, now that's an embarrassment!!

    May 14, 2009 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I wonder if Notre Dome or any Catholic school will accept the President.

    May 14, 2009 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  22. Middleman

    Crying shame that holding two college degrees, writing a best-selling book, being elected to the US Senate, and the (landslide) election as US President don't count for much these days.

    I hope Obama can someday complete that "body of work" that ASU rigorously demands from their honorary degree holders.

    May 14, 2009 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  23. Philip Grant

    This man is a class act. But, as usual I'll come back to this blog in a few hours to witness the hate-o-thon from those who just can’t handle having a Barack Hussein Obama as their president.

    May 14, 2009 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  24. George

    What a pleasant change from the last president. Barack admitts there is more to learn, more to accomplish.
    Our last one after a couple of years said Mission Accomplished. Nothing more to learn, nothing more to do, and above all no one worth listening to.

    May 14, 2009 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  25. carlo

    I don't really believe some of these "special interests" realize how little the President cares about their rantings.

    May 14, 2009 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
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