Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave the virtual commencement speech at his alma mater, Fremont High School, on Saturday, and the reviews were not kind.
Caylin Choquette, who shared the video on Twitter, called it "the worst graduation speech of all time."
"Is this satire?" asked Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis. His colleague Noah Shachtman was on the same page: "Who is this actor SNL got to play Sasse? He looks JUST like him." Former New York Observer editor Elizabeth Spiers elaborated: "If you've ever been to an open mic standup comedy show where there's one guy who's so bad the whole room goes completely silent and starts scanning for exits because the vicarious embarrassment is too much — and you want to re-live that — here's Ben Sasse to oblige." "Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes," said historian Kevin Kruse.
The Omaha World-Herald described Sasse as "unshaven" and "wearing a loosened red tie and white shirt." He was certainly ... casual. "Can't say that I have ever watched a high school commencement address where someone suggests that they are overweight, repeatedly blames China for ruining their ceremony, and insults psychology majors and anyone named Jeremy," local state Sen. Adam Morfeld tweeted, but Sasse "pulls it off!" Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, watched his remarks and wanted to know: "Who hurt Ben Sasse in high school?"
Is the speech really that bad? Comedy is, after all, subjective. Objectively, Fremont Public Schools disavowed Sasse's remarks Sunday evening, a school board member asked him for an apology, and the Nebraska Counseling Association slammed him in a public statement.
Despite the jabs at humor, it was a downer of a speech. Sasse jumped from Tiger King and toilet paper to "murder hornets" and black holes. "You're stuck at home for graduation, and that's really not even a Top 100 problem," he added.
Did Sasse have good news? Yes: These graduating high school students "have the potential to have grit and resilience and determination and to get through this," and "that's what's going to pull us through this thing: You're going to pull us through this thing." Yay? Watch the speech below.
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