President Barack Obama spoke out against anti-intellectualism during a commencement address at New Jersey's Rutgers University on May 15 and insinuated that those who deny scientific claims are holding the country back (video below).
“Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science -- these are good things,” Obama told the crowd of college students. “These are qualities you want in people making policy. These are qualities you want to continue to cultivate in yourselves as citizens.”
Obama also credited the nation's founders, as well as titans of industry, for having a perspective that invited rational thinking as a way to create progress.
“Look, our nation’s Founders -- Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson -- they were born of the Enlightenment. They sought to escape superstition, and sectarianism, and tribalism, and [know]-nothingness,” Obama said. “They believed in rational thought and experimentation, and the capacity of informed citizens to master our own fates. That is embedded in our constitutional design. That spirit informed our inventors and our explorers, the Edisons and the Wright Brothers, and the George Washington Carvers and the Grace Hoppers, and the Norman Borlaugs and the Steve Jobses. That's what built this country.”
Obama also criticized immigration policies advanced by presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, although the president didn't mention the billionaire by name.
“Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting that they should be treated differently when it comes to entering this country, that is not just a betrayal of our values, that's not just a betrayal of who we are, it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism,” Obama said, referring to Trump's suggestion to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. for an uncertain period of time.
Obama also criticized Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“Suggesting that we can build an endless wall along our borders, and blame our challenges on immigrants, that doesn’t just run counter to our history as the world’s melting pot; it contradicts the evidence that our growth and our innovation and our dynamism has always been spurred by our ability to attract strivers from every corner of the globe,” Obama said. “That's how we became America. Why would we want to stop it now?”