The Class of 2015

I have never paid attention to them, but I’ve been coming across this year’s commencement speeches by chance and found myself quite interested in them. During the last few years the depressing retardedness coming out of America’s universities has reached all-time highs, so a couple of the speeches I heard were expected, but a couple others gave me hope. Not that the students will remember anything the speakers said, but what are these speakers telling our graduating class of 2015?

First is the President of the United States’ address to the Coast Guard Academy. It was pretty boilerplate and just fine until the climate change part (which has been written about plenty and I don’t have much to add there).

Thankfully, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft was there to give the real commencement speech. “…I need you out in the fleet, I need you on the flight line, I need you at our sectors,” he said. “Because a number of worlds have converged on the Coast Guard that are going to be your responsibility to answer those calls during your watch (sic). And I am very confident that you will lead our country, that you will lead our Coast Guard, extremely well in those 20 plus years that you’ll serve our nation…”

The Admiral then continues to explain the law enforcement role the Coast Guard plays in the Caribbean Sea and elsewhere in fighting international organized crime. He also looks ahead to the growing importance of the Coast Guard’s role in intelligence and the greater role it will play in the Arctic and maintaining open shipping lanes.

“Yes, the marine highway is critical to maintaining the United States’ economic prosperity, and quite honestly, our national security. Because 90% of our nation’s commerce rides on the sea and on our inland waterways, and you are key enablers to allowing this economic prosperity to flourish on your watch as well.

“And some of you will head off to flight school, where you’ll enable all Coast Guard missions and maximize effectiveness of all shore-based units and in our cutter fleet at sea. Yes, you are about to become leaders on a team that frequently serves on all 7 continents. We are not a coastal guard. We are a global Coast Guard.”

As the Islamic State continues to win in the Middle East, it’s hard to understand why the President aggressively ignores reality. But after listening to his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy, it makes sad sense – it’s not that he abandoned a mostly won war and a mostly stable Iraq, it’s that if only it wasn’t so hot and dry out there we wouldn’t be seeing this problem.

NASA’s “foremost mission” to making better relations with the Islamic world, and Obama’s Coast Guard is tasked with rescuing climate refugees. Thanks Obama. To be fair, the Coast Guard does have to be there to respond to natural disasters, but they already train for that. And do the armed forces really have to be the petri dishes of shoddy political trends?

Bill Nye spoke at Rutgers, and took the climate change theme to an absurd point saying “The oncoming trouble is Climate Change: It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents’ generation.” What!? “They rose to the challenge, and so will you. They came to be called The Greatest Generation. I want you all to preserve our world in the face of Climate Change and carry on as The Next Great Generation.”

The revival of Bill Nye in recent years is kind of sad for me personally. I’m 28, and my generation grew up watching his videos in the 90s. He did indeed teach me a lot and made me more interested in science, so to see him make a come back as a climate alarmist hack sucks.

Joe Biden, looking super American with his aviators, gave a similarly sucky speech at Yale. But, there was one part which I wish he himself, along with the POTUS and FLOTUS and the Science Guy and others, would listen to as they tell these grads to stomp out the deniers and intolerants on the way to Progress and the future. He said “when you question a man’s motive, when you say they’re acting out of greed; they’re in the pocket of an interest group, etcetera; it’s awful hard to reach consensus. It’s awful hard to reach across the table and shake hands. No matter how bitterly you disagree, though, it is always possible if you question judgement and not motive.” I can throw my cap off to that.

Now for the good ones. Indeed, the awesome ones. British novelist Ian McEwan gave his commencement address at Dickinson College, and he took the opportunity to address some of the disturbing intellectual trends gripping America’s campuses:

“Free speech is the life blood, the essential condition, of the liberal education you’ve just received…you’ve come of age in a country where the enshrinement of free speech in the First Amendment is not an empty phrase, as it is in many constitutions around the world, but a living reality…

“Now, there’s a phenomenon in intellectual life that I call ‘bi-polar thinking’ – ‘let’s not side with Charlie Hebdo because it might seem as if we’re endorsing George Bush’s War on Terror.’ This is a suffocating form of intellectual tribalism and a poor way of thinking for yourself.”

He takes on the embarrassing treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali on US campuses, and one of the touchy subjects du jour saying “Islam, of course, is worthy of respect, as indeed is atheism. We want respect flowing in all directions, but religion and atheism and all thought systems, all claims to truth, especially the grand claims to truth, must be open to criticism, satire, even sometimes mockery.

“…It can be a little too easy sometimes to dismiss arguments you don’t like as hate speech. Or to complain that this or that speaker makes you feel disrespected. Being offended is not to be confused with a state of grace. It’s the occasional price we all pay for living in an open society. Being robust is no bad thing. Either engage, with arguments not with banishments – and certainly not with guns – or, as an American Muslim teacher said recently at Friday prayers, ‘ignore the entire matter.'”

Amen brother.

Finally, we have actor Matthew McConaughey at the University of Houston. McConaughey is delightfully Southern, wondering whether he should give the students something “short and sweet, or long an salty? A sugar doughnut or some oatmeal?” He recounts how the value of degrees started declining as he entered and graduated college, and asks the students to take a hard look at what their degrees are really worth. “Life is not easy. It is not. Don’t try to make it that way. It’s not fair, it never was, it isn’t now and it won’t ever be.” To take it further, forget about equality of outcome in any facet of life.

Then, he dropped probably the most important message any of the speakers gave: “Do not fall into the trap, the entitlement trap, of feeling like you’re a victim. You are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get ’em.”

He seemed to give his whole talk without reading anything, and it was clear, simple and profound.

To the fortunate graduates entering the world with these last messages, congratulations and all the best. And remember to wear sunscreen:


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