In a speech in Wisconsin late last month, President Barack Obama offered some solid advice to an audience at General Electric’s Waukesha Gas Engines facility. As part of an off-the-cuff joke, he suggested that people who pursue the skilled trades can easily earn more money than some sad sack majoring in art history.
Obama, a graduate of two Ivy League institutions, spoke — apparently impromptu — about the benefits of working in America’s ever-diminishing manufacturing sector.
“I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” the president said. (RELATED: Cruel, heartless Obama mocks his most loyal, unquestioning supporters)
He seems to have caught himself pretty quickly.
“Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history,” he then swore.
The White House press apparatus dutifully records that the gathered crowd engaged in laughter at this point and again right after Obama said: “So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody. I’m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need.”
Naturally, Obama was then, in fact, deluged with angry emails from art history major across the country.
Obama bothered to apologize to at least one livid art history majors in a handwritten letter released by the recipient, Ann C. Johns, a professor of art and art history at the University of Texas at Austin, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Here is what Obama wrote to the professor:
“Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed. So please pass on my apology for the glib remark to the entire department, and understand that I was trying to encourage young people who may not be predisposed to a four year college experience to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.”
Johns gushed about the note in an email to Inside Higher Ed, writing: “he really just made a mistake, AND, he ‘fessed up to that mistake! I have great admiration for someone who can apologize!”
She claimed that the study of art history develops critical-thinking skills, observing: “I also felt that it was important for him to know that art history is no longer a haven for ‘the girls with pearls.’”
“I’m certainly proud to have voted for this president!” the exclamation point-addled art scholar added.