Angela Poe Russell: What we can all learn from Harrison Butker’s shocking speech

May 15, 2024, 6:21 AM | Updated: 8:34 am

butker speech...

Harrison Butker #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks with the media during Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium on February 5, 2024 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo: Perry Knotts, Getty Images)

(Photo: Perry Knotts, Getty Images)

College graduation ceremonies are making a lot more news this season with protests and cancellations. But over the weekend, it was what NFL player Harrison Butker said during a commencement speech that got people fired up.

So I have a pretty unusual question to ask. If you only had days or minutes left to live, what would you want to say and to whom?

I’ve always been fascinated with what we focus on when we have little time and a lot on our hearts and minds to say. I’m not the only one. Famous last words are a thing.

This fascination with meaningful messages makes me love the commencement season. Accomplished people attend a grand affair where they share their wisdom with a group about to embark on a new journey. There is excitement and uncertainty.

More KIRO opinions: What do President Joe Biden and Sammy Sosa have in common?

It’s the ultimate drama and the speaker only has 15 to 20 minutes

That’s why the commencement speech by Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Harrison Butker caught me off guard. His theme: Stay in your lane. But he spent the first 15 minutes veering outside of it, criticizing many things and people — the president, birth control, the COVID-19 response, priests, bishops, Catholics, Pride Month, shacking up, the emasculation of men, IVF, I could go on.

“It is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you,” Butker said at the commencement speech. “How many of you are sitting here now, about to cross this stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.

“I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother,” Butker continued in his speech.

For some people, this is a dream. But for many others, their careers offer great fulfillment.

The problem with this commencement speech is exactly what he said with his own mouth: That the message wasn’t based on wisdom, but on his experience. And young people getting ready to start a new life chapter deserve more than his limited experiences.

Commencement speeches with long-lasting impact are inspirational and motivational. This one was more like a muted fire and brimstone Sunday sermon that we’ll discuss on Monday at best and then go on with our lives.

Using this unique opportunity of a stage and those precious few minutes that few people get for that is, at best, unfortunate. But perhaps it’s something we all can learn from.

More from Angela Poe Russell: Don’t fall for this trap when watching the news

If we, one day, find ourselves on a stage or with little time left and a lot to say, we might meet the moment with the best of ourselves, embracing the wisdom gleaned through many experiences – not just our own.

Angela Poe Russell fills in as a host on KIRO Newsradio and has been around Seattle media in different capacities for a number of years.

KIRO Newsradio Opinion


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Angela Poe Russell: What we can all learn from Harrison Butker’s shocking speech