A crowd cheered and applauded a valedictorian who quoted President Donald Trump in his graduation speech — then quickly fell silent after he made a revelation that left many shocked.
Ben Bowling received the highest academic honor from Bell County High School, which is located in southeastern Kentucky. Citing a Trump quote would seem appropriate in this part of the country: The region voted almost 4-to-1 in favor of the businessman-turned-politician.
Bowling’s comments didn’t seem that far out of line, and what he said was definitely the opposite of profane.
“This is the part of my speech where I share some inspirational quotes I found on Google,” Bowling said in jest before stating the words in question. “‘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.”
The crowd reacted with a huge applause — but Bowling quickly corrected himself because those words aren’t from Trump at all.
“Just kidding,” Bowling said. “That was [former President] Barack Obama.”
The crowd fell silent. Some groaned.
Bowling was fast to read his crowd’s reaction and recounted his experience hearing the change in demeanor.
“The crowd erupted in applause, and before they could even finish clapping, I said I was kidding and the applause quickly died,” he explained.
There were a few other reactions, too, including disgust.
“There was a portion of the crowd that thought it was absolutely hilarious,” law student Alisha Russell, who attended the ceremony, said. “But there was definitely some collective groaning too.”
The reactions of the crowd — who were clearly supportive of Trump — reveals a glaring hypocrisy that is apparent among many Trump supporters, in Kentucky and elsewhere.
The quoted line was good enough to render applause from the crowd when they thought Trump had said it — and indeed, they are good words to live by. But as soon as it was revealed that a different president had said them, support for the words themselves vanished.
There was no reason for this other than political sectarianism; the message itself hadn’t changed at all. Rather, the opinions of those hearing that message did, for no discernible reason other than they felt they had been duped into liking something Obama had said.
If the message had been a good one to hear, it shouldn’t have mattered who had said it, and the crowd was wrong to swiftly change its outlook on it upon discovering someone else had said it.
The obvious (and in many cases prejudicial) feelings that Trump supporters hold for the president that preceded him were always apparent. Ben Bowling, this past weekend, simply made them more observable.