May 14th, 2009
04:50 AM ET
6 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. Kevin in Ohio

    This president IS a joke. Nearly 50% of us are not laughing.

    May 14, 2009 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  2. Retired Army in San Antonio

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

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Ahhh, yes........the deep, probing 'reach' of the revenuers ;-) ........ that'll learn 'em :-D

    May 14, 2009 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. D. Tree

    Humor is a great way to make people in the audience feel more at ease, but he also showed that he was humble at the same time.

    May 14, 2009 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  4. Sally

    It was a charming, self-deprecating turn on a silly controversy... and the President managed to turn it into an important teachable moment. Good for him!

    May 14, 2009 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  5. gina

    Good job, President Obama.

    May 14, 2009 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  6. Kyle, MD

    He's right, he hasn't achieved anything. Maybe after he becomes the Pope, will the university recognized his greatness.

    If I were the president I would not return to this school, ever. I've never heard of anything so absurd.

    Obama 2012

    May 14, 2009 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  7. Obama 2012

    This man is amazing!!! What a powerful speech!! I'm sure ASU feel very small now!!

    May 14, 2009 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  8. Austin Swafford

    Some at the Catholic school objected to his invitation because of his views on abortion and stem cell research? I'll tell you what – take care of your very justified image as being the top party school in America, and THEN you might be able to complain about the President's moral stances.

    May 14, 2009 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  9. american

    What an absolutely wonderful comeback. I love this guy.

    And the nerve of that Univeristy president not giving Obama an honorary degree....as though an honorary degree from Arizona means anything, anyway.

    May 14, 2009 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  10. Gerald

    The humor is not appreciated , masking more lies I suspect.

    May 14, 2009 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  11. SHIRLEY -SDL

    The President did at least two goods things yesterday. He decided not to post more of those ugly pictures generated by the previous administration's stupidity, and he gave a really good, thoughtful speech at the ASU commencement. He is truly the man I want to see in this position at this time. I personally felt that no one deserved the stupid honorary degree more than this man, but he handled this occasion with good humor and humility. I am very proud of him, and know if he can just handle those hypocrits at Notre Dame (they knew what his views were before he was elected and invited there) as well as he did the ones at ASU, he will make both schools look just as intolerant as they really are.

    May 14, 2009 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  12. lxc

    Obama thinks everything is a joke!!!!! I think he is the biggest one of all....

    May 14, 2009 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  13. pakuna

    Just step back and listen to this idiot. Everything is a joke to him you people need to wake up.
    He was not awarded an honorary degree because he does not deserve it. He does not deserve it plain and simple.

    May 14, 2009 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  14. J S Ragman

    I watched the speech on MSNBC. As always, it was relevant and inspiring. He always makes me wish that I was about 20 yrs younger.

    May 14, 2009 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  15. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    The man knows how to make lemonade from lemons.

    Also, I thought is a delightfully subtle jab at all those old faculty and new graduates who obviously don't understand that by his election alone President Obama has contributed greatly to forward motion of our nation in terms of diversity appreciation and equal opportunty for all.

    Few presidents before him can claim such an accomplishment...and as such is already entitled to many accolades.

    May 14, 2009 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  16. Tim

    Who says he is joking? Obama and the democrats have already shown us that they plan to use the IRS code to target individuals, why wouldn't they target a University or the univerisity president himself.

    May 14, 2009 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  17. Carmelle

    I am 25, graduated in Finance May 1st of this yr and just moved to NY for a new job.......This was the most motivating, inspiring and redefing of success speech that I have ever heard!!!

    He reminded me why I moved from a 3rd world country (Haiti) to the USA. I feel motivated by my sensed call of service, and as my career is starting.... I pledge to be ethical, accountable and serving to my community, this country and mine throughout the journey.

    I hope my generation and many others will value the principles stated in that speech. We can change the world!

    May 14, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  18. Reggae

    You gotta love this man!!

    May 14, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. This liberal not for Obama

    What a total LOOSER! he is.

    May 14, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  20. dave

    This is a man who understands things aint always what they seem. He could have made a big deal of this and refuse to attend but no he went and like the teacher he is taught every one a lesson in humility.

    May 14, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  21. Seattle Sue

    Gee, I wished he had not joked about the IRS, now all the right wing posters at this site will be accusing him of abusing his power with the IRS.

    May 14, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  22. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Why would President Obama ever need a degree from ASU anyway? The party and date rape capital of the college world. Was John McCain and Cindy there with that smirkey smile?You know the one, when someone in the audience yells " he's a muslim "? Shows how much McCain cares about education here in Arizona. For the last week they have been coming up with myriad reasons to boycott the event, even interviewing pizza delivery boys complaining how the traffic will take money out of their pockets. ASU did show some class by asking the President to speak; it's just too bad it was all third!

    May 14, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  23. Steph

    The speech was funny, inspirational and the best possible response to the ridiculous behavior of the ASU board of refents.

    May 14, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. phoenix86

    A disgrace to ASU to allow this man to speak there.

    May 14, 2009 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  25. kimberly

    For the first time in my adult life I was REALLY proud of Arizona. This is the first thing Ariizona has gotten right in my adult life. It was a joy to be part of the state that he picked to do this. He was great!!!

    May 14, 2009 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
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