Sarah Palin’s Commencement Advice is All Wrong


Sarah Palin has a message for graduates this spring. It’s simple and folksy and smacks of the kind of practical sentiment that made the Pitbull of Wasilla a household name. What Mrs. Palin says, by way of catchy graphic, is this:

Yeah! Get off your butt! Make a buck! Work hard, get rich! ‘Merica!

Because it’s all about the money, right?

What the hell happened to serving humanity? Shouldn’t graduates be exhorted to get off their butts and make a difference? Help humanity? Create something beautiful? Build something useful? Save lives, shape minds, clean the air or the water, feed the hungry? Wouldn’t any of those things be the kinds of prizes worthy of young eyes? Does it all have to be about money?

There are times when I see the pursuit of wealth for the sake of wealth and it makes me feel like our society has gone off the rails. When did the pursuit of wealth become a virtue? Since when is being rich a peak achievement? It just seems like a hollow achievement to be rich if your legacy doesn’t also include substance.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to have the kind of money to insulate me and my family against crisis. Knowing I could write a check for whatever we needed to safeguard our health and safety would be my idea of ultimate security. But I’m not after fancy cars or a mansion or designer shoes. And I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of luxuries in favor of integrity. I’d rather make a mark on my community than make a buck.

America is not a reality show with cash prizes. It’s a society, a community. We do – or we should – have a responsibility to look after more than our bank accounts once we’ve taken care of our own basic needs. As I’ve said before, if the plane depressurizes, by all means put your own oxygen mask in first but then check to see if the person next to you needs help with theirs. Sitting back and breathing deeply while your neighbor gasps is inhumane if you could help them get air.

“Go get yours” is not the message I’d send to young people. I’d tell them to mingle in the cities and towns of our country and get to know as many people as they can. I’d tell them to step out of their comfort zones and learn about the ways all kinds of Americans live. Then I’d tell them to take that knowledge and understanding with them as they embark on a career. Let humanity influence their next moves. Let compassion drive them off their butts. That would serve the nation better than all the bucks at Fort Knox.

Rebekah Kuschmider is a DC area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, a cable news addiction, and a blog. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in theatre and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector.  Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at She was voted one of the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs at Circle of Moms. Her work has also been seen at, Redbook online, and the Huffington Post.

Image via

  • Beverly Uhlmer

    Did you even listen to or read the rest of this message? It is not about money per se, but about WORKING for what you want, not whining to the government to take care of you. Those who dislike Sarah will always take pot shots at this accomplished and moral woman so it doesn’t really matter what she does or says.

  • While I don’t disagree with Beverly’s assessment of the rest of Palin’s message above, I do see it as a continuing promotion of an idea that is rapidly moving from aphorism to myth thanks to the policies of Palin’s party – that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be able to succeed or even make it in this country.

    The growing gap between rich and poor belies this sentiment. “The rules” are increasingly being rewritten to favor large corporations and well-connected individuals at the expense of those people who actually do work pretty hard and barely make it.

    Look how hard the Republican party argues in favor of cutting wages and closing windows of opportunity for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    But the Church of the False Meritocracy must live on so that people like Beverly can consider someone like Sarah Palin to be “accomplished” and “moral” while sneering at the working poor who have neither her looks or her luck.

    • Beverly Uhlmer

      When my husband and I married in 1967 we had to pay off his college loans and we had NO inherited money. We lived below our means, worked hard and now have a comfortable life. There is no need to get snarky. One of the problems is that the education system does not prepare students for the real world. The breakdown of the family puts greater pressure on the teachers to be mom and dad as well as a teacher. The lawyers have scared the administration into allowing all sorts of rude behavior that would never have been tolerated when I was in school. The push to try to get every student into college is a bad idea. Some students are more suited to the professions such as plumbers, electricians, etc. I grew up in very modest circumstances and do not sneer at anyone. I just have little patience with those who keep demanding higher and higher wages, that just result in increased costs to the consumers (including those making those higher wages) without actually raising their standard of living. I don’t support so-called corporate welfare but we have to recognize that people with money are the ones who provide the jobs and opportunities for the rest of us.

  • I get that “plumbers and electricians” bit all the time, when arguing about the college thing. There are lots of people in the trades who make more money than me – good for them. My dad was in that business and he was a true bootstrapper. Back in the 60s he went from dirt poor to doing very well for himself. Of course, he also had a business degree.

    But it’s not 1967 anymore. Today, all over the country, people in the trades are struggling because of the bad behavior of the banking industry for whom the game is rigged. Also, manufacturing – the usual avenue for people without a degree – is not what it was in 1967. Many of those jobs are long gone, and they are not coming back. Companies are actually incentivized to move them overseas.

    What does that leave us with? Knowledge workers and Walmart workers. The first group needs degrees and the second needs assistance. To work actively against the survival of those two groups, as Republicans do, is to deliberately move the American dream out of their reach. They continue to say that America is the land of equal opportuntiy, while continuing to act as if prosperity is a zero-sum game.

Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Hillary Clinton, Shake It Off, Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton Campaign song
Six Reasons “Shake It Off” Should Be Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Theme Song
Nancy Reagan dies, Just Say No, Ronald Reagan
A Not-So-Positive Ode to Nancy Reagan’s Frothy “Just Say No” Campaign
I Married for Health Insurance
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Trump Reality Check, Now with Actual Facts!
Fascism Facts
I Married for Health Insurance
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Women’s Elections Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Token Drop in an Abysmal Bucket & the Plight of Women Under Sharia Law
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
Paris attacks, Paris terrorism
Is Paris Burning?
Chinese government and women's reproductive rights, adopting Chinese girls, international adoption
Dear Xi Jinping, I Am Writing to You as an American Mom of a 19-Year-Old Chinese Daughter
The Vital Voice of Hillary Clinton: Part 1
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
The Eyes Have It!
Ashley Madison, Jared Fogle, sex, rape, sexual affairs
Ashley Madison vs. Jared Fogle: Rape, Sex and Hacking in America
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread