Copyright 2010 by John T. Reed

I had a surprising conversation at a recent Northern California dinner party. The hosts were the woman who sat next to me our first year at Harvard Business School and her husband, a Harvard MBA-JD who graduated the same year his wife and I did. Two other of our Harvard section mates (a section is about 85 students) were there. One said he had attended the West Point graduation ceremony in May 2010 because a friend or relative was graduating.

Obama was the commencement speaker and handed out diplomas. My section mate, who did not attend West Point or serve in the military, said Obama’s reception by the, officers, and their families was uncomfortable. When Obama said generic applause line like “the world’s best Army” or some such, it got applause. But for the rest of the speech, applause was embarrassingly absent or cold and perfunctory.

He said you could sense that the audience in Michie Stadium did not like or respect Obama other than to tolerate his presidential prerogative of making the speech. His statements about his defense policies were coldly received.

Maybe this happened with Clinton, too, but I never heard about it. Clinton was America’s first Draft Dodger in Chief. Since I never heard about it, I will tentatively assume Clinton was more warmly received at West Point graduations than Obama. I hope persons who attended such a graduation will tell me whether I am wrong about that.

Clinton had a lot of trouble with the military. One of his female staffers refused to speak to a military officer assigned to the White House because he was in the military. He also signed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” which was less popular then than it is now.18 American military died in Mogadishu perhaps because Clinton refused to let them take tanks. The survivors of that battle had to rescued by Pakistanis who had some armored vehicles.

So if Clinton was, indeed, better received at West Point commencement than Obama, it is quite noteworthy. I would also point out that West Point cadets and officers almost never show the slightest hint of displeasure toward a superior and as Commander in Chief, Obama is the highest ranking person in the U.S. military. So it is quite surprising and telling that they would openly disrespect Obama at graduation.

This is also another manifestation of the media covering up for Obama. The media were there because of the policy speech and the chance to video the graduates throwing their white hats into the air. But I recall no media report that Obama was not well received by that audience.

This would have been even more newsworthy following Obama’s seemingly enthusiastically-received December 1, 2009 speech at West Point. My article on that speech said he probably chose West Point cadets as the audience for his Afghanistan “surge” announcement because they were the only audience in America he could count on to be respectful and well-behaved. Apparently, he wore out his welcome—even at The United States Military Academy—with that one speech.

I never thought I would live to see the day that West Point cadets and officer and their families received a sitting president of the United States coldly at a West Point commencement address.

Obama has achieved a lot of “firsts”—too many of them negative.

Here is an email I received on 7/1/11 from a grad who heard a Clinton commencement speech while he was a cadet.


Still can't stop reading!

I saw in your article re: Obama at USMA graduation 2010 that you were looking for thoughts on when Clinton spoke at USMA Graduations. He did at '93's when I was a "rising Firstie." Here's how it went:


Yes, absolutely cold. We stood at attention, we sat when ordered, we did not laugh at any of his jokes, we did not applaud him, we did nothing whatsoever at ALL to even remotely mime that he had any ounce of respect from us. The silence, hate, and disdain was uncomfortably palpable for many, many people, both in uniform and out.

I do recall that, normally at such events, officers and NCOs would circulate throughout the lower 3 classes, instructing us to applaud at the appropriate times. Not so on this occasion. As a matter of fact the "official" instruction for '94, '95, and '96 from our own ranks (and, in some Cadet Companies, "unofficial" instruction from the TACs) was to be as "respectfully disrespectful" to Slick Willie as we could possibly manage.

As I recall, the only "comment" made by the Corps was when Clinton's microphone cut out for 2 or 3 seconds during his speech; Willie was rewarded with a very audible snorting laugh from Cadets, Officers, NCOs, and parents/loved ones alike. They talked about it for days afterwards. I think it actually made the news.

When the ceremony finally concluded we all double-timed out of there as fast as we could. I heard later from a LTC with a big mouth that the Secret Service held Clinton on the presentation platform for security reasons to ensure that everyone had left Michie Stadium before he departed. Clinton told them flatly, "get me the hell out of here; this is the worst I've ever had it." At that point, LTG Graves, the Supe, intervened, and told Clinton that he, too, was a Rhodes Scholar. Clinton, evidently, relaxed a bit at that point, and instead of heading back to the Plain and boarding Marine Corps 1, went back to the Supe's residence with Graves to shoot the bull about their shared "brotherhood" for a couple of hours. The rumor was that LTG Graves had done this because he felt sorry for the Commander-in-Chief. Not sure if that benefitted him at all upon retirement. Anyway, once Willie deemed the coast to be "clear," he vacated the premises ASAP.

We all felt very proud of ourselves after that.

I think he spoke at one more graduation after that (I think they had to use a crowbar to pry him onto the helicopter)--I do recall some news broadcast saying that "this time" had been a "whole lot better" than the first time (1993). Not sure about that--but I will say that I was certainly very proud to be a part of the "first time."

Have a great 4th of July weekend!

Jeff Owen

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[Reed comment: This stuff blows my mind. If we had ever done anything like this, we would have been chewed out and mass punished. Indeed, they probably would have sensed it coming and chewed us out and threatened us in advance to prevent it. But then, unlike cadets since 1992, we never had a draft dodger in chief. Also, although it is standard these days for a president to do one service academy commencement address per year, when we were cadets, President Johnson never did a single one at any service academy.]