During the weekend of graduation at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in May, the rain began as little more than a mist on Friday night. Then it came down harder and harder, until it was a tropical deluge. We were reassured in various speeches that rain was a good omen for weddings and commencements, and no one wanted to dispute the notion. Everyone there, all the parents and faculty and students, was glad that these four years were over. It was time to move on, no matter what the future might hold.
And to reveal what that future might be, George Bush would speak at the commencement ceremony Saturday morning. He had accepted three invitations to speak at graduation ceremonies. At Notre Dame he would talk about families and personal values; at the United States Naval Academy he would talk about defense; and here at SMU he would talk about the economy. That sounded interesting. Not only had Bush reneged on his campaign promise of no new taxes, but he was also proposing wilder spending than any president in history. His 1993 budget was $1.52 trillion—almost a third more than Ronald Reagan’s last budget, just four years ago, a time when the Soviet empire was still regarded as a monolithic threat. Maybe in his speech the president would say what he wanted to buy for all that money.
More likely, and really more to the point for the audience he was about to address, he would discuss the difficult prospects the graduates would be immediately facing. Unfortunately, these young people were seeing that the United States today was not a land of promise and opportunity for them. In the preceding week, newspapers in Texas and across the country had published front-page stories about the problems college graduates were having as they looked for jobs. On May 15, the day before Bush’s speech, the Dallas Morning News ran the headline Graduates Face Gloomy Job Market. The story quoted one SMU graduate as saying, “I really don’t know what to do. I’ve been going through the malls.” Another graduate said, “It’s kind of depressing when other people are laid off and are well-educated and they’re trying out for jobs you’re trying out for.” That same week in a similar story, the Houston Post quoted an official from Texas A&M as saying, “It’s the worst market in 25 years.” In the center