Last night, I attended the commencement ceremonies at Florida International University. There I was with thousands of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers all watching a loved one celebrate a milestone.
No exchange made me more uncomfortable than that between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, which began with Trump getting booed after whining about not getting enough good questions. Bush seized the opportunity and lit into him. Then it got weird.
FIU happens to be one of the most diverse universities in the United States. It is a place where more than half of the enrollment speaks a second language. And it’s also a place where “immigration” is not an angry campaign speech, but rather a way of life — more than half of the students are immigrants themselves or children of immigrants.
It’s also a place that has named one of its most important buildings after President Ronald Reagan. In fact, the Reagan legacy – and some would say, Reagan spirit – is found all over campus.
Was I filled with pride watching my son Robert Francisco Sanchez accept his diploma? Of course I was. But I was also proud and moved by the sense of hope in the air. It was a celebration of light. It was about faith in the future. It was about Americans of many faiths – and races – and nationalities coming together to share in the promise of America.
Because it was uplifting, positive and inspiring, it actually made me feel good after a long work day. And that feeling stayed with me — right up until the time I got home, turned on CNN and began watching my recorded version of the Republican Primary debate.
It was as if someone had switched off the lights and there I was surrounded now by darkness, not because of the late hour, but rather because of the tone of the debate. Can you say “ANGRY?” If the GOP hopes to win back the presidency, it must find a way to avoid spectacles like what America witnessed last night.
I mean, come on. A couple of polls come out showing Americans are concerned about their security in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and the candidates go full tilt, sky is falling — Chicken Little. Unless you want to be frightened and angry, this gathering of negative Nelsons and Nancy’s will surely hurt your party in the long run.
If there is such a thing as sounding Reaganesque, this wasn’t it. Move along folks, no “shining city on a hill here.” No call to uphold the “principals of morality, self discipline and liberty.” In fact, it was mostly about this:
Isis is coming to kill us all
Fear, fear and more fear!
We’re no good any more.
We’re nothing but losers.
We shouldn’t trust anyone.
We shouldn’t accept anyone.
When the candidates weren’t sounding angry at the world, they started up on each other with catfights between Senator Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, which at times made me uncomfortable.
But no exchange made me more uncomfortable than that between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, which began with Trump getting booed after whining about not getting enough good questions. Bush seized the opportunity and lit into him. Then it got weird.
“If you think this is tough, imagine what it’s going to be like dealing with Putin,” Bush said almost chuckling.
“I know, oh yeah, you’re a tough guy, Jeb,” Trump shot back with rage in his face almost to the point of salivating.
It was an ugly scene, highlighting what seemed to me a debate which stoked way too much irrational fear and hate and very little confidence in the future. Pollsters, talking heads and others who are part of the chattering class say that’s the mood America is in. Don’t tell that to the tens of thousands last night at FIU who missed the debate to attend a commencement, which highlighted confidence and hope in the future. They were in the right place. And as for the debate, they didn’t miss much.