Political strategist James Carville warned graduates of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication that his speech to them on Friday wouldn’t be the standard graduation fare or, as the “Ragin’ Cajun” put it: “The world is your oyster, so don’t put too much horseradish in your oyster sauce.”
Instead, the LSU alumnus perhaps best known for helping Bill Clinton win the presidency spent most of his 30-minute speech railing against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and the threat of cuts to state funding for higher education.
“Our university is in crisis,” he told the crowd. “This has gone on too long.”
The state faces a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall in the coming year, which has left higher education and health care vulnerable to potentially draconian cuts in the budget that begins July 1. The state Legislature is still working to hash out a final spending plan for the coming year.
As he has in the past, Carville again accused Jindal of allowing conservative Washington, D.C., lobbyist Grover Norquist to rule Louisiana’s fiscal future. Jindal signed the Norquist-designed “no tax” pledge and has used it as a test for tax policies that he will or will not veto as governor.
Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s chief of staff, congratulated LSU graduates and their families, then said, “James Carville is a loyal Louisianian, and we respect his passion for LSU. We hope he will join us in our efforts to cut corporate welfare spending and redirect those dollars to higher education.”
From the podium, Carville, a Democrat, offered $5,000 to any candidate for Louisiana governor — Republican or Democrat — who would commit to a constitutional amendment to fund higher education here at the Southeastern Conference average.
“This is not red and blue. This is purple and gold,” he said. “I’ve had a remarkable life in politics. This place is my passion.”
He urged the crowd, which gave him a sizable standing ovation at his speech’s end, to fight for LSU’s future.
“We need to stand up. You need to stand up.”
Carville was one of several featured speakers as individual colleges had diploma ceremonies Friday to usher out LSU’s largest spring graduating class in history — nearly 4,000 students.
A main commencement ceremony was held Thursday night.
Computer science major James B. Smith was among the thousands of students celebrating graduation from LSU this week.
But at just 16 years old, Smith has the distinction of being the youngest person ever to receive a degree from the university.
“I think it’s still kind of sinking in,” he said Friday just before the College of Engineering diploma ceremony. “It feels good.”
Smith, who enrolled in LSU when he was just 13 years old, had been home-schooled.
“It was different walking into my first class, and there were about 900 people in it,” Smith joked.
He said he’s looking for a job and hoping someone will be willing to “take a chance” on him, despite his youth.
“I haven’t ironed all the details out yet,” he said. When it was announced during the ceremony that one of the graduates on the floor was just 16, the crowd gasped before ringing out in applause.
During the College of Business diploma ceremony earlier in the day, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana executive Peggy Scott urged the graduates to seize their futures and “be productive.”
“ ‘Someday’ is not a day on any calendar,” she said. “It never comes.”