Over the weekend, documentarian Ken Burns delivered the commencement speech at Stanford University, and the filmmaker used the opportunity to disavow presidential hopeful Donald Trump in the way only a true student of history could. Burns was reflective in his comments, but he was also extremely pointed, and there’s no way to walk away from his speech without a very clear sense of how Burns feels about Trump and, moreover, how he feels about the possibility of a Trump presidency.
“For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year,” Burns said.
“One is glaringly not qualified,” he added. “So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants, and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties, and longstanding relationships.”
“As a student of history, I recognize this type,” Burns continued. “He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African-Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber-rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong.”
Burns wasn’t dead yet, adding, “These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again — all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires.”
You can check out the full contents of his speech here.
You can also watch the full speech, thanks to Buzzfeed, below: