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Betsy DeVos encourages Community College graduates to be selfless and then talked a lot about God

June 27, 2019

On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave a commencement address for graduates from Tulsa Community College’s Second Chance program. The Second Chance program is a collaboration between Tulsa Community College and several jails/prisons in Oklahoma and was created in 2007.

The Second Chance program has received pell grants from the Department of Education beginning with the Obama administration and now the Trump administration wants to make it permanent.

Betsy DeVos’s comments during the commencement were not particularly enlightening and she said nothing about the fact that the US has more people in jail/prison that any other country on the planet. In fact, DeVos had no critique of the Prison Industrial Complex, instead she chose to focus on what the individual student who participated in the program could achieve. A lack of an systems analysis has been the norm for the current Secretary of Education, since she believes that everyone has the ability to make it on their own.

There were a few comments from DeVos’ commencement address that are worth discussing. First, she says:

And you’ll contribute to an economy—the strongest it’s been in years! There are about 8 million unfilled jobs today. Small businesses are opening at record numbers. Wages are growing and unemployment is shrinking—for everyone. Our economy is expanding faster than anyone predicted.

Remember, these are students who were taking classes in jail/prison, so getting hired is not an easy thing for people with a criminal record. In addition, DeVos does not back up her claims about the economy being strong and wages going up. This is because it just isn’t true. Wages have only grown in a significant way for the 1% and the .01%, according to the site

Secondly, DeVos talks a great deal about God in the later part of the commencement speech, saying things like people are born in the likeness of God or that whatever talents people have are God given. To make matters worse, she then cites convicted criminal turned evangelical christian, Charles Colson as an example of someone who was “redeemed.”

Using Charles Colson as an example of redemption is instructive, especially since Colson embraced the same kind of far right christian values that Betsy DeVos has. While alive, Charles Colson spoke out against gay marriage, against women’s reproductive rights, he endorsed US wars abroad and he was a frequent speaker for the  pro-patriarchy group, The Promise Keepers. Thus, using Colson as an example of “redemption” was just another way of for DeVos to inject conservative religious values into her speech. 

Lastly, near the end of her speech, the Secretary of Education encouraged the students to be “selfless.” Now, where I come from, the idea of being selfless means that you give of yourself for others and don’t do things to put yourself first. How is it that Betsy DeVos, who is from a millionaire family and married into a billionaire family, who owns jets, yachts and numerous homes, how can she encourage selflessness, when clearly she is part of the billionaire class?

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