A bizarre graduation speech from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) last week included blaming the “thugs in China” for causing the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging students not to pursue psychology and taking digs at their fitness levels.

In a taped speech to Fremont High School graduates on May 16, Sasse said that at future reunions, 2020 graduates would remember their senior year as “that time when China started a big global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees and we had to stay home and everybody was hoarding toilet paper.”

He later said Nebraskans and Americans had the “grit” to “beat the virus,” fix the economy and have a “serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.”

The 1990 graduate from Fremont High claimed “nobody remembers” their high school graduation so students were not “missing out on that much.”

Sasse then ranted about the field of psychology, urging students not to pursue it in college.

“Ninety-five percent of all gainfully employed psychologists — and I’m serious, there are dozens of them that are gainfully employed — their job is really just to help people forget high school and the other 5%, they just research hamsters who get lost in mazes, which come to think of it is a lot like high school and that’s why we want to forget it,” he said.

“There will always be money to be made in psychology,” he continued. “Now that’s a joke… If you’re headed to college, do not major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.”

The Nebraska Counseling Association issued a statement calling Sasse’s comments “demeaning” to both the students and mental health professionals, noting the speech showed “an alarming lack of sensitivity” towards the graduating seniors.

“We wonder if you understand the importance of psychologists and the role that mental health plays in America today,” said the organization, which comprises of counselors and human development professionals,” the NCA wrote.

The senator then made a jab at the students’ fitness, saying they would be asked to climb a “giant rope” in their lives.

“If you don’t get that joke, talk to your mom and dad,” Sasse said. “Back in the day when we were a lot fitter than you people are, we used to have to climb ropes all the way up to the ceiling of the gym.”

Sasse’s speech also included jokes about “murder hornets,” Netflix’s Tiger King documentary and the name Jeremy, saying, “everybody named Jeremy is the worst.”

The speech prompted Fremont school board member Michael Petersen to demand the senator apologize to the students for his “despicable” speech.

“You deserved better than the graduation remarks from Senator Ben Sasse,” Petersen wrote in a Facebook post. “The racism, implying that our graduates are fat and lazy, disparaging teachers, and attacking the mental health profession are despicable. You owe the graduating students of Fremont High an apology.”

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