The Epidemic of Entitlement: response to Tulane students’ petition
Recently, when reading the news online, I stumbled upon a headline that stunned me. The story reported that a small group of Tulane students were dissatisfied with the university’s announcement that the very accomplished journalist and Today Show host Hoda Kotb had been selected to deliver the Class of 2016’s commencement address. The students declared that they “deserved better,” and created a petition to push for a change.
It’s important to note that those who had signed it represent only a small fraction of the university, and Tulane stands behind its choice (and rightfully so.)
The following letter reflects my personal opinion of the situation, and addresses only those students and parents who signed the petition. –Kim Bergeron
Dear Tulane “Elitist” Petitioners,
Congratulations. You’re about to graduate from one of the most respected universities in the United States. You’re following in the footsteps of many proud alumni who hold their alma mater in the highest esteem. They’re the doctors, the lawyers, the professors and scientists, management professionals, and so many more accomplished individuals with BAs and MBAs and PhDs, who have gone on to do great things in the world.
Congratulations. The 262 students (and parents) who signed the petition have just humiliated the many who have previously walked across that stage and graciously accepted their diplomas. You have embarrassed your professors, your university, your city and your state as the rest of the world reads the headlines and the content of your petition as they circulate around the web.
You say, “We all feel cheated. Given the amount of money, work, and passion we have poured into our educational careers at Tulane, we think we deserve better than this. Hoda Kotb is hardly an inspirational figure, and despite the fact that she has had a successful career in journalism, we feel that we deserve a more recognizable and more prominent figure than her. Commencement speeches are supposed to inspire students before they are thrown into the real world. Hoda Kotb spends her time sipping wine on talk shows, and discussing which dog breed is trendiest in 2016. There’s hardly anything inspirational about that. This is an embarrassment not only to the entire class of 2016, but also to the school as a whole.”
Let’s take a closer look at whom you feel is not good enough for your commencement address.
If you read The Hayride story, you’ll find an impressive list of accomplishments by a respected journalist who was relentless in her pursuit of a career as a reporter, and earned her way up through the ranks for a job well done. You’ll find a career which includes coverage of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, the South East Asian tsunami and the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for Dateline NBC. And you’ll find what reporter John Binder lists as among Ms. Kotb’s most celebrated coups, scoring the first American press interview in 11 years of the internationally recognized, and then-imprisoned, leader of Burma Aung, San Suu Kyi.
You’ll find brief mention of her survival of breast cancer, a battle which was neither brief nor easy. It’s a triumph that inspired women throughout the United States.
If you delve a little deeper, you’ll learn that she is also a New York Times bestselling author, whose latest book, Where We Belong: Journeys That Show Us The Way shares stories of people who “find their life’s purpose in unexpected ways…with examples of perseverance, self-reflection, and new attitudes on life…a motivating and inspirational look at exploring and finding the right path for your personal journey.”
It’s the stuff of which commencement addresses are made. And that book was preceded by two equally acclaimed books, Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee and Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.
Yet you “deserve better.”
Now, let’s consider here what you really deserve: a reality check that probably should have been cashed years ago. One which, when redeemed, will provide reasonable returns on that for which you have worked. And the harsh reality that you are not the suns around which the world revolves.
You’re not entitled to anything other than the degree you have pursued.
And (based on your behavior, this part is now questionable) the prestige that comes with it. But with your self-importance, you’ve just tarnished the latter of the two for all of the other soon-to-be-grads who are mortified by your behavior.
So here’s a bit of unsolicited advice for you, as you prepare to enter the real world with real jobs and real bosses who sign real paychecks: you would be wise to quickly and quietly remove your names from the petition, if possible, before would-be employers stumble upon it. (Because in this day and age, the internet is one of the first things prospective employers search when assessing potential employees’ character.) You’ll be hard pressed to find any employer who will be willing to take on high maintenance, entitled, self serving and (as your Tulane predecessors have labeled you in the petition responses,) ungrateful, spoiled brats. And those were some of the nicer comments.
To the parents who have joined the petition, also claiming your children deserve more, it appears you’ve demonstrated to the world where your child gets his or her sense of entitlement. Job well done. Perhaps you should spare yourselves the agony of the commencement address, stay at home with your new grads and rent the movie that epitomizes your collective actions: “Mean Girls.”
Because let’s face it, Hoda Kotb deserves better than you.
To the remainder of the Tulane students, the university and the fine city of New Orleans, hang in there. This, too, shall pass. And to the rest of the world, we Louisianans ask that you not judge the whole of us based on the actions of a few misguided individuals. We are better than that.
Lastly, to Ms. Kotb, thank you for all that you have done to inspire the masses, and for being such an amazing ambassador for the city of New Orleans. You are loved by many who have utmost respect for all of your accomplishments and for the joy you bring to so many.
And just know this: should you desire to “spend time sipping wine” following your commencement address, say the word, and I’ll round up the nice girls (and guys.) We’re buying.
See the epic response of Hoda’s former WWL colleague, Karen Swensen, shared via WWL-TV here.
The original story was reported by John Binder of The Hayride, and can be read here.
As of the afternoon of 3/17, the petition and comments (originally posted here) have been altered, with content replaced with single alpha characters. (It’s possible that the site prohibits complete removal, so the original poster circumvented that with content replacement.) Here’s a screen shot with a sampler of the comments before deletion.
The signatories are still there, such as https://www.facebook.com/EMMILYFERRETTI?fref=nf
That link doesn’t lead to any sigs. If you have a direct link, it can be added! Thanks.
That’s just a person, one of the 200-odd on the signature list of the petition. I was merely pointing out that not all the names have been eliminated
Ahh, I thought perhaps there was a screen shot, such as the one of the comments added at the end of this post. I have no doubt such is out there, serving as a permanent archive of the petitioners’ actions.
“…Congratulations. The 262 students (and parents) who signed the petition have just humiliated the many who have previously walked across that stage and graciously accepted their diplomas. You have embarrassed your professors, your university, your city and your state as the rest of the world reads the headlines and the content of your petition as they circulate around the web…”
It’s as if this author thinks the costs of living and tuition haven’t risen AT ALL.
Working as a waiter (or any other typical job) is not nearly enough to put yourself through college anymore. Get off of your high horse and put that education you so smugly think you earned (through sheer grit and a go get ’em spirit, I’m sure) and take a look at the actual costs involved here.
THEN rewrite this column properly and honestly.
Mr. Brazell, Certainly no one is denying that the cost of tuition has risen. That was not the point of this post. The point was that, regardless of such circumstances, it is not acceptable to make condescending remarks about a very accomplished woman who was selected to deliver the commencement address. The students who penned the petition said they “deserved better.”
While certainly, you are entitled to your opinion. that which is expressed in this column is mine. And, based on the fact that this response has been shared nearly 75,000 times on social media, it appears the message resonates with others as well.
I will not, as you request, be rewriting this column “properly and honestly.” I consider the info as contained in the original post quite proper and honest. The students filed the petition as stated. Ms. Kotb is quite accomplished, in far many more ways than stated within the post. And it is not okay to treat others the way these students have treated Ms. Kotb, no matter where they are obtaining their degrees. And while you may consider that this post was made from the perspective atop a high horse, it’s quite the opposite; it was made with compassion for someone who didn’t deserve what the students were dishing out–from their high horses.
Sean, are you deaf, or were you reading some other column? Cost of living and tuition? I believe we’re talking about manners and entitlement. The petition signatories have little of the former and oodles of the latter, not a good ratio. If you have a different take on the sitch at Tulane, perhaps you should write your own column, but based on the impressive level of your cluelessness I doubt that it would be as well received as this column.
The use of ‘whom’ and not ‘who’ in the featured sentence ‘Let’s take a close look at whom you feel…’ Is unfortunate.
Hi Dave, In this instance, “whom” is the object of the preposition, “at,” and is, therefore, correct. However, such input is always appreciated, as I, too, find grammatical errors unfortunate and do not wish to be the cause of such!
Good for you! I have 2 children, one of which will be going to college next year. I hope that I have done my duty as a parent to provide my children with reality checks enough so that my children never feel entitled like this. I have raised my children with a mantra of ” you get what you get and you don’t get upset” and ” you get back what you put in” . My children realize that life is filled with hard work and disappointments, rewards and consequences apply to every part of your life and that we make choices that determine which one you get. I really do wish more parents would look at what they have created honestly. Did I mention that both of my children are on the autistic spectrum? My children were raised with manners and respect, and in turn, they treat people with respect and use the manners they have been taught everyday, without prompting. My children will open a door for anyone, get a grocery item high on a shelf for a stranger, help put heavy items into a car and they do it all without my asking them to. There is a sense of responsibility to each other that this world is lacking these days. It’s not just about college students disrespecting a celebrity speaker, it’s so much closer to home than that. It’s time to reevaluate how we raise our children, it never used to be this way. It’s very, very sad what we have become. I’m glad you wrote this, maybe more people will look deeper and make some some needed change.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and kudos for the lessons and manners that you are teaching your children. Imagine how much more beautiful the world could be if all parents instilled these values.