President, distinguished faculty, ladies and gentlemen, and graduates. Congratulations, you’ve just completed the modern equivalent of high school from 75 years ago. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. 75 years ago all high school students were required to learn Latin. Statistically speaking, a significant number of you are functionally illiterate.
That may seem unnecessarily harsh to all your fragile egos, but I don’t place the blame entirely on your shoulders. Some of it rests in the lap of our government. Many years ago they, in their impenetrable wisdom, decided that all young people should have a university education. In order to achieve this goal, they continuously lowered the standards of a university degree to such depths that many of you will be hard pressed to leverage your education into any sort of meaningful career.
The blame doesn’t end there, however. The next level of irresponsibility rest squarely on this fine institution of higher learning. Universities function more like quasi-political unions than purveyors of knowledge. In a clever twist of capitalist greed, they’ve secured your financial ruin through astronomical tuitions while sharpening their political axes on your psyches. In other words, it has cost tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars just to become the political puppets of bitter, out-of-touch intellectuals. Just how irrelevant are these relics of a failed Cold War empire? They’ve convinced you that censorship is actually a good thing, that opposing views must be eliminated and anything remotely capitalistic is evil. Everything, that is, except their extremely expensive education.
The problem with these ideas is that they don’t exist outside the hallowed halls of this educational institution. In short, you have been left woefully unprepared for the real world.
Remarkably, your future struggles are not all on them. Your parents spent a lifetime of teaching that the world revolves around you, that you should trust your feelings and follow your heart. There are three things wrong with these teachings. First, the world doesn’t care at all about you. There are no participation ribbons in life. Second, your feelings lie. They change at a whim and are too unpredictable to guide you in life. Third, your heart is woefully unprepared for the challenges of the real world. In your twenty or so years on this earth, you’ve barely had enough time to learn the most basic lessons of life. Ignorance, reflected upon itself, only creates deeper ignorance. Your heart can not be a trusted guide.
The last one to blame for your current state is you. It’s true that most of you have bought into your education hook, line and sinker. Not once have you seriously stopped to consider whether any of the things you’ve been taught are actually worth learning. You are ultimately responsible for your actions, so don’t just take everything you hear as truth. That applies even to me.
This leads to the hopeful part of my talk. After all, what good is a commencement address without some much need encouragement?
I entreat you, esteemed graduates, to be highly skeptical. Don’t take everyone at their word, even if they claim to be an authority. Claim of authority is not the same as proof of authority.
I also urge you to force upon yourselves the perspectives of others. The universe does not revolve around you. You are a piece of something greater, nothing more, so adapt to this fact.
Speaking of something greater, embrace faith. There are eternal truths that will carry you much farther that following your heart. Seek them, find them, and grow with them.
Finally, do not be so conceited that you’re unwilling to start from the bottom. Work hard. Prove yourself. The world owes you nothing, so earn your place in it.
If you do these things, only then will you start to overcome the failings of your government, your school, your parents and ultimately yourselves.
Thank you, good luck and may God have mercy on your soul.