Thousands of students across America are experiencing a novel way of leaving high school: the virtual graduation.

For many who had looked forward to the physical occasion of graduation day, virtual ceremonies may already be a little disappointing.

But if they were unlucky enough to have Nebraska senator Ben Sasse give their virtual commencement address, then they might want a full blown do-over.

Sasse’s Saturday speech at the Fremont High School graduation has been dubbed the ‘worst of all time’, receiving criticism from a board member, the Democratic candidate for Sasse’s seat and social media users.

Sasse seemed to be attempting humour with his disastrous address, but the result didn’t leave many laughing.

During the speech he made repeated racist remarks about China, implied that Fremont students were lazy, went on a bizarre tangent about gym teachers and implored students not to study psychology.

“Congratulations, parents, teachers, coaches,” Sasse said at the beginning of the speech, adding:

Not that there’s any meaningful distinction between those categories anymore. If you’re a parent, you’re a teacher… thanks a lot China.

At one point he told students they weren’t “missing out on that much” by not being able to attend their high school graduation.

“Nobody remembers anything about their high school graduation,” Sasse declared, before going on to claim that a lot of people spend “most of their lives” trying to forget “as much about high school as we possibly can”.

Sasse then started ranting about psychologists.

95% 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 ... If you’re headed to college, do not — do not — major in psychology. That part’s not a joke.

The senator also managed to fit in more pot shots about China, saying graduates would remember this period of their lives 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”.

Sasse also coupled remarks of encouragement with some more anti-China sentiment:

Nobody knows exactly how we’re going to beat this thing, but you know what, we’re Americans, we’re Nebraskans, we’ve got grit and we’re going to beat this thing.

We will bring the economy back. We are going to beat the virus... We're going to have to have a serious reckoning with the thugs in China who let this mess spiral out of control by lying about it.

Sasse’s speech was greeted with alarm by Fremont board member Michael Petersen, who said graduates “deserved better” in a Facebook post and called for Sasse to apologise.

“First of all, congratulations to the Fremont High Class of 2020!!!” wrote Petersen.

Your leadership in turbulent times with the flooding your Junior year, and COVID your senior year is remarkable. 

You deserved better than the graduation remarks from Senator Ben Sasse. 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.

Students seemed to agree.

“Thank you for understanding how most of us feel about his speech,” one Fremont student commented under Petersen’s post.

“Not only does he need to be held accountable for what he said, so does the person who let his speech into the commencement. Most people don’t remember the speakers at their graduation but we always will. His apology will never be good enough”.

Chris Janieck, Sasse’s Democratic rival in the upcoming November election, also had some choice words for his appearance.

“It’s hard for me to believe that a US senator would make remarks like he did in that speech,” he said.

“Ridiculing mental health care specialists, suggesting that the graduates are lazy slackers and using the platform to blame China for the pandemic we have now is beyond reprehensible”.

In a statement, Sasse’s spokesman doubled down on his comments.

Like he said in the video greeting, Ben’s proud of each of the graduates — and he believes their generation is tough enough to help lead us through the bumpy economic times ahead. It’s ridiculous that some politically addicted folks are complaining about Ben calling out China in a joke. 

He’s said this for months, because it’s true: The Chinese Communist Party’s coronavirus cover up wasted time that could have contained the spread — those lies cost innocent lives in China and around the world. Pretending graduates are too fragile to hear the truth is silly.

Sounds like someone might actually need the services of a psychologist…

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