Obama’s Best Graduation Day One-Liners

Commencement addresses often turn president into comedian in chief

President Barack Obama, seen here at Howard University last month, often peppers his graduation remarks with jokes and one-liners. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Barack Obama, seen here at Howard University last month, often peppers his graduation remarks with jokes and one-liners. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:03pm

President Barack Obama was at it again on Thursday. Sure, he was taking his final stump speech for another test drive in a stadium packed with young voters . But he was also shopping for laughs.  

Obama delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy  graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, where the outgoing president got to play a role he clearly enjoys: comedian in chief. Like his remarks to the blue-clad cadets Thursday, his previous 2016 commencement speeches at Howard (May 7) and Rutgers (May 15) universities were peppered with quips and off-the-cuff one-liners.  

Larry Wilmore , the Comedy Central host who performed at April’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner , gave props to Obama’s comedic chops during a recent radio interview. Specifically, Wilmore credited the president’s sense of timing and delivery. Here are some some of the best — and corniest — cuts from Obama’s commencement season comedy tour:  

Friendly skies: “You’re on time… You don’t lose my luggage… And I don’t have to take off my shoes before I get on… I’m really gonna miss Air Force One.”  

— Thursday at the Air Force Academy

Known commodity:  “No, my election did not create a post-racial society. I don’t know who was propagating that notion. That was not mine. But the election itself — and the subsequent one — because the first one, folks might have made a mistake. The second one, they knew what they were getting.”  

— at Howard University in May


10 Times CNN Was Butt of Correspondents’ Dinner Jokes



“Black enough”:  “One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough. In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office.”  

— at Howard

“Remove Obama”:  “And my favorite: ‘Remove Obama. Or millions of Americans will die.’ That’s an actual quote.”  

— at the Air Force Academy, recalling, with a chuckle, panicked quotes during the 2014 Ebola scare

“Dr. Dad”:  “One of the perks of my job is honorary degrees. But I have to tell you, it impresses nobody in my house. Now Malia and Sasha just say, ‘OK, Dr. Dad, we’ll see you later. Can we have some money?’”  

— at Rutgers University in May

Looking good? No:  “I graduated in 1983. And don’t even get me started on the clothes and the hairstyles. I’ve tried to eliminate all photos of me from this period. I thought I looked good. I was wrong.”  

— at Howard


Obama, Wilmore Pound CNN at Annual D.C. Spectacle


Let’s move:  “So I’m here, off Exit 9 … home of what I understand to be a grease truck for a ‘fat sandwich.’ Mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers on your cheese steaks — I’m sure Michelle would approve.”  

— at Rutgers, referring to wife Michelle’s anti-obesity program

“I’m old”:  “As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that when I was first elected president, most of you — the class of 2016 — were just starting high school. Today, you’re graduating college. I used to joke about being old. Now I realize I’m old. It’s not a joke anymore.”  

— at Howard, just under three months before his 55th birthday


Contact Bennett at 


 and follow him on Twitter 



Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.