An audience at a Kentucky high school graduation proved that the person behind politics matters a lot more than what’s actually going on.
Ben Bowling, valedictorian of Bell County High School, delivered the ceremony’s commencement speech over the weekend. What Bowling said was simply the use of a quote has proven to be a social experiment.
“This is the part of my speech where I share some inspirational quotes I found on Google,” Bowling quipped.
“‘Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.’ — Donald J. Trump.”
Video shows the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. But only for a moment.
“Just kidding. Just kidding. That was Barack Obama.”
Clapping slowed down immediately, and at least one person audibly booed, video shows.
“The crowd erupted in applause and before they could even finish clapping I said I was kidding and the applause quickly died,” Bowling told the Courier Journal.
Historically, Bell County has not been fond of Democrats — not just former President Barack Obama. The Washington Post reports:
The closest a 21st-century Democratic presidential candidate has come to winning the hearts and minds of the people of Bell County, Ky., was in 2004, when John F. Kerry got 39 percent of people there to punch a ticket for him.
Every other race has been (more of) a landslide by whoever happened to be on the Republican side of the ballot: nearly 71 percent for John McCain in 2008, according to the state’s board of elections. Mitt Romney got 76 percent in 2012, and Donald Trump received an overwhelming 82 percent of Bell County’s votes in 2016.
Bowling told the Courier Journal he “didn’t mean anything by it” — he just liked the saying.
“I just thought it was a really good quote,” he said. “Most people wouldn’t like it if I used it, so I thought I’d use Donald Trump’s name. It is southeastern Kentucky after all.”
But knowing he’d have to attribute it to Trump to slip it into his speech speaks volumes in itself.
Richard Gambrel, the principal of Bell County High School, summed up the problem proven by Bowling’s stunt in a quote to The New York Times.
“It proves that people don’t read or pay attention,” he said, laughing.
Bowling has reportedly not faced any disciplinary action from the school or administrators.
The quote in question came from a speech Obama delivered in 2012 at Barnard College’s commencement ceremony. He told the graduates: “America needs what you, the class of 2012, has to offer.”
“My first piece of advice is this: Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table,” he said to the crowd.