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.