By Anthony Hadford | A commencement speech is an opportunity for students to reflect on their educational experiences and receive advice and inspiration from notable figures in society. For example, in 1941 Winston Churchill told the graduates of Harrow School, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Such words of wisdom are meant to encourage the graduates to work hard, dream big, and rise to any challenge that they are guaranteed to face in life.
Recently, commencement speeches have turned into the perfect opportunities for school boards to choose their favorite public policy speaker to have a final attempt at indoctrinating as many students, families, and friends as possible. At the University of Wisconsin, Mark Bradley (a member of the University’s Board of Regents) told thousands of students, “When you understand the issues, I am confident that you will understand the need to advocate for greater investment of state and federal funds because without increased investment of state and federal funds, the cruel reality is that, this great public university will not be affordable to all members of our public.” Well thank you, Mr. Bradley, for reminding the graduates of 2013 that they are uninformed individuals who can’t decide for themselves (or perhaps shouldn’t be allowed to) whether the government should continue spending at a reckless rate. This utter lack of respect for the student’s intelligence is not only uninspiring but flat out inappropriate. Using commencement speeches to make a policy statement is a sad reality that the Left has taken advantage of over the past few years. At the University of Virginia, Senator Jim Webb repeatedly told graduates that while the economy is facing a slow recovery, “the stock market has doubled since you started here.” Senator Webb then continued to explain the injustice of the widening gap between the rich and the poor in this country. Instead of inspiring the students with words of encouragement, he stressed the importance of sharing our wealth with others; something which he believes is a duty of all citizens.
As students prepare to leave college and enter the real world, it is unfortunate that they leave with commencement speakers undermining their intelligence and telling them what to think. It is now more important than ever that young people are reminded of the rewards of hard work, good morals, and the unshakeable principles our founding fathers laid down for our country to be the leader of the free world. These are the messages young graduates need to hear as they prepare to shape the future.
Anthony Hadford is a Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at Young America’s Foundation and is a second year at the University of Virginia.
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