In case you missed it, this weekend saw the world’s greatest commencement speech ever … or at least the most expensive one … when billionaire commencement speaker Robert F. Smith announced his commitment to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College. The cumulative cost of that graduation gift to 430 graduating seniors is estimated to be $40 million.
Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez completely overlooked the fact that it was only capitalism and the largess of a self-made billionaire that made it happen, when she tweeted, “Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker. This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years.”
Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker.
This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years. https://t.co/UM1qTJOxHf
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2019
Ummm … OK, whatever. But to be useful, any results gathered would need a comparable group of young people who are not beneficiaries of a capitalist whose cup is overflowing. Shall we say a similar graduating subpopulation in Venezuela, Alexandria?
Sure … let’s do that. Best idea ever from AOC. A rare occasion.
Watch the announcement from Smith, standing on the commencement stage, and the slow realization and shock that sweeps over the crowd of students, family, and faculty for yourself …
Video by Morehouse College
But woe to the alumni of Morehouse College who were directly challenged by Smith, to step up in the future.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith said, slowly savoring the moment. “Now I’ve got the alumni over there and this is a challenge to you, alumni …
“This is my class … 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
The Daily Mail reported that before graduation, 22-year-old Finance major Aaron Mitchom put together a spreadsheet to figure out how long it would take him to pay-off his $200,000 in student loans. He concluded that he could pay it all off in 25 years if he allotted half his salary to the bill. Instantly, that all changed as he sat in the crowd, listening to Smith.
“I can delete that spreadsheet,” he said in an interview after the commencement. “I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”
According to the Mail, “His mother, Tina Mitchom, was also shocked. Eight family members, including Mitchom’s 76-year-old grandmother, took turns over four years co-signing on the loans that got him across the finish line.
“‘It takes a village,’ she said. ‘It now means he can start paying it forward and start closing this gap a lot sooner, giving back to the college and thinking about a succession plan’ for his younger siblings.”
USA Today reports that Smith is worth $5 billion. In 2018, Forbes profiled the philanthropist and said he was the nation’s wealthiest African-American and he ranks 355th overall on Forbes’ 2019 Billionaires list.
And yes, of course Smith is a bona fide, self-made, capitalist of the highest order. According to USA Today, he is …
“the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm with offices in several cities including San Francisco, New York City and Austin, Texas. According to its website, Vista has $46 billion in capital committed to companies specializing in data, software and technology. According to Forbes, Vista is one of the best-performing private equity firms, with annualized returns of 22% since it was founded. Prior to founding Vista, Smith worked in tech investment banking with Goldman Sachs.”
“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents, and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know,” Smith said. “Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward.”
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