Graduation Day: Obama and Bush in Colorado

Colorado hosts two graduations with major policy speeches today: one by a current president looking back and one by a (possible) future president looking forward.

Barack Obama will host an invitation-only town hall meeting at 11:30 a.m. at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (MESA) in Thornton, where he is expected to address high school renewal programs, citing Mapleton as an example. Obama will speak with the school’s 44 graduating seniors, all of whom are heading to college. On the campaign trail, Obama has said repeatedly that educational reform, particularly for urban school districts, will be a primary goal of his time in the White House. Mapleton principal Mike Johnston has been advising the Obama campaign on education issues for more than a year, though the Denver Post quotes Johnston saying that today he is just “the principal” on the visit and joking that he tried to discourage Obama from visiting his particular school.

Contrast that with President George W. Bush’s speech to Air Force Academy graduates in Colorado Springs this morning at 10 a.m., when his prepared remarks will draw connections between the conflict in Iraq and World War II, wire services report:

"After World War II we helped Germany and Japan build free societies and strong economies. These efforts took time and patience, and as a result Germany and Japan grew in freedom and prosperity and are now allies of the United States....Today we must do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq…And by helping these young democracies grow in freedom and prosperity we will once again reap the benefits in generations of security and peace."

This is not to be confused with Bush's previous remarks on the connections between his War on Terror and WW II that he delivered to Air Force Academy graduates in 2004 (the president rotates amongst the four service academies when delivering commencement addresses):

"Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy. Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of terrorism reaches across boarders, and seeks recruits in every country. So we're fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the earth.

"Like other totalitarian movements, the terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity. So to the oppressed peoples everywhere, we are offering the great alternative of human liberty.

"Like enemies of the past, the terrorists underestimate the strength of free peoples. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows will collapse in weakness and in panic. The enemy has learned that America is strong and determined, because of the steady resolve of our citizens, and because of the skill and strength of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the United States Air Force."

Following the ceremony, Bush is expected to attend fundraisers in Utah for GOP hopeful John McCain and meet with the officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at their worldwide headquarters in Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, Obama heads to Chicago to spend time with his family before returning to the campaign trail in South Dakota and Montana.

Call them ships passing in the night, or at least private planes crossing jet streams high above the Rockies. -- Joe Horton

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