by Watkins Varnadore
Columbia – South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, speaking at the University of South Carolina commencement ceremonies at the Colonial Center Saturday, berated graduates who had taken out too much money in student loans to pay for their education.
“You look at that degree you are about to hold, and you tell me you didn’t trade your future away to get it,” the republican governor said midway into his remarks. “I look at you and all I see are slaves in an economic plantation system. And to think you sought out help from the government to get this worthless piece of paper.
“What do you think you’re worth now?” he added. “You’ve taken all the classes, you’ve had some nice experiences, you’ve all taken a bath in this selfish cesspool that college life offers, and for what? There’s not a fool among you who is worth more than what you’ll be making as a Shoney’s server.”
At one point sobs within the pool of graduates were audible, along with several barb-filled heckles.
“You think I’m kidding? Hey, when I was a teenager on my dad’s summer plantation on Beaufort, we slept on a wooden floor without air conditioning, and we smiled and had happy times. You people have had air-conditioned rooms your entire life, and you never had to reap the hay in my dad’s plantation fields like I had to do one summer. I earned every sweat stain on my blue oxford cloth shirts, and I wore out plenty of soles on my Sebago Docksiders, doing the work of a person who will never be in debt for his entire life.”
After several other memories of his life before politics, and his obligatory mention of the futon he slept on in his office while a member of Congress, the governor re-focused his speech on the state of the economy the graduates are doomed to inherit.
“You’re going to take your fake degrees out into a world that’s not going to give a damn about you or your parties or fraternities or your big shiny cars,” Sanford said. “You’re going to take your fake degrees out into a world that has no money because the federal government took it all to pay for your sorry butts in college.
“You should all be ashamed,” he added. “While yes, the government will actually reap the benefit over the years from what you took out in guaranteed student loans, as well as a sharp increase in your collective taxable income, you’ve done your bidding to feed the monster we within government are trying to starve.
“You’ve done your part in ruining this state for generations to come,” Sanford concluded. “If you know what’s best for you, you’ll leave this state for the people who want to stay around here and fix it all by themselves, without government help in any way. So please believe me when I say, don’t let our broken door hit you on the way out.”
Graduates offered mixed feelings about the Governor’s 30-minute rant on the state of the economy thanks to indebted students.
“What a douche, that’s all I can say,” said Martin Graves, 21, a history major from Savannah, Ga. “I’m not even from here, so I don’t know what the hell he was talking about.”
Lillian Hammett, 22, of Greer, was in tears by the end of the speech. The communications major said her total amount of student loans topped $20,000, adding that she also worked full time to support her parents, who were laid off from their jobs at a Spartanburg-area processing plant.
“What else am I supposed to do?” she said, repeating over and over, “I’m good for it. I’ll pay it back.”
As she wiped her tears away, when asked if she would vote for the governor should he be a presidential candidate in the 2012 race, Hammett said she was undecided.