President Obama’s speech to Howard University graduates sparked a lot of criticism in conservative circles. It was basically a reboot of his infamous “you didn’t build that” speech to business owners, only this time, the implication was that college graduates didn’t make it that far by resisting the temptations of sex, alcohol and drugs, buckling down, studying hard, and earning a degree. No, they were just luckier than people who failed to go to college. As Obama put it, one of his “pet peeves” is “people who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude.”
I can understand his thinking, up to a point. If you’re successful, you shouldn’t an arrogant snot about it, and you should thank God for your blessings. On the other hand, the Lord helps those that help themselves. You’re a lot more likely to succeed if you keep your nose to the grindstone than if you sit around smoking pot and scratching lottery tickets, waiting for God to bless you with “luck.” All the luck in the world won’t make you successful if you don’t put in the work to get there. And if you do put in the work and succeed, you have a right to feel good about what you – yes, YOU, not Washington or sheer dumb luck – accomplished.
Likewise, if you take the risk to start a business, work 80-hour weeks paying yourself less than your employees, go bankrupt, start over and try again and again until you finally become a successful CEO, that’s not “being lucky.” However, if you get elected to the most important executive job in the world with no relevant experience, THAT’S “being lucky.” So you can see how Obama might easily mistake "luck" for "accomplishment."
MORE ON THE SPEECH FROM HOTAIR.COM:
Talk about an inspirational message. Imagine busting your tail to graduate from a prestigious college only to have the commencement speaker intone that you made it through because “you got lucky.” That’s basically what Howard University graduates heard from President Barack Obama this weekend as he delivered what is basically a “You didn’t build that” speech in a cap and gown.
Politico has the entire transcript of the speech, but it was this passage that raised eyebrows over at The Weekly Standard:
After detailing at length his desire that the graduates from the historically black college should “Be confident in (their) blackness,” he then went on to admonish any graduates who may believe that their singular achievement being celebrated this day should in any way be a day of pride and reflection over the enormous amount of work they put in to the effort to receive their college degree:
We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.
And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude.
No, it’s more than a pet peeve of his, it’s an ideology.
Progressives, by definition, must believe that the wealthy and successful among us have “won life’s lottery” and are “fortunate” to be where they are, or, as most lefties think these days, the successful somehow cheated their way to the top leaving a slew of poor schmoes starving in the streets behind them. As soon as a progressive concedes that achievement is possible if an individual works hard enough, they’ve lost their reason for being. Because a progressive exists for the purpose of growing a large central government hell bent on controlling group outcomes (not individuals) and to do so they must instill the idea that no one success without “luck” or through the benign and plentiful largess of the state.
So just like “you didn’t build that” in 2012, “yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky” continues the ongoing theme of knocking down individual achievement and admonishing anyone who might take pride in their accomplishments to not “have an attitude” because, but for the grace of Obama, you’d be living on the streets.
While we’re at it, conservatives need to stop playing in to this narrative too. How many times have you heard a wealthy and successful person discuss those individuals who are “less fortunate” than they? “Less fortunate” has become a sloppy euphemism for the impoverished, but it is wholly inaccurate and unhelpful. With the opportunities that exist in America for those who work hard for their education, stay out of trouble and employ a sound work ethic, “luck” and “fortune” have little to do with success any more.
Most “fortunate” men and women have something in common: They’ve worked their tails off. Let’s leave the “luck” to the lottery winners and praise achievement for what it really is: the result of hard work and good life choices.