We are in the middle of graduation season when high schools, colleges, and other institutions of higher and (sometimes) lower learning hold their commencement ceremonies. When that happens, of course, you can expect to hear a surfeit of advice–some good, some bad, some forgettable, and some unforgettable from a broad range of personages who may (or may not) feel entitled to hold forth while wearing assorted academic caps, gowns, and other scholarly regalia.
As a former college Dean at the University of Illinois, I presided over at least eight of these rituals and listened to an assortment of both predictable, and occasionally, unpredictable commencement speeches.
Looking back, I wish someone had given the commencement speech in my College that I am about to share with you.
Now, here is a little confession: This commencement speech has never been given, but it should be. It was written by former syndicated talk show host Neal Boortz in protest of never having been invited to give a commencement address. It became the springboard for his first book, “The Commencement Speech You Need to Hear.” Later he produced an audio CD of the speech complete with crowd noise and applause, which was aired on his radio program. Read on. You won’t be disappointed.
“I am honored by the invitation to address you on this august occasion. It’s about time. Be warned, however, that I am not here to impress you; you’ll have enough smoke blown up your bloomers today. And you can bet your tassels I’m not here to impress the faculty and administration.
You may not like much of what I have to say, and that’s fine. You will remember it though. Especially after about 10 years out there in the real world. This, it goes without saying, does not apply to those of you who will seek your careers and your fortunes as government employees.
This gowned gaggle behind me is your faculty. You’ve heard the old saying that those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach. That sounds deliciously insensitive. But there is often raw truth in insensitivity, just as you often find feel-good falsehoods and lies in compassion. Say goodbye to your faculty because now you are getting ready to go out there and do. These folks behind me are going to stay right here and teach.
By the way, just because you are leaving this place with a diploma doesn’t mean the learning is over. When an FAA flight examiner handed me my private pilot’s license many years ago, he said, “Here, this is your ticket to learn” The same can be said for your diploma. Believe me, the learning has just begun.
Now, I realize that most of you consider yourselves Liberals. In fact, you are probably very proud of your liberal views. You care so much. You feel so much. You want to help so much. After all, you’re a compassionate and caring person, aren’t you now? Well, isn’t that just so extraordinarily special? Now, at this age, is as good a time as any to be a liberal; as good a time as any to know absolutely everything. You have plenty of time, starting tomorrow, for the truth to set in.
Over the next few years, as you begin to feel the cold breath of reality down your neck, things are going to start changing pretty fast… Including your own assessment of just how much you really know.
So here are the first assignments for your initial class in reality: Pay attention to the news, read newspapers, and listen to the words and phrases that proud Liberals use to promote their causes Then, compare the words of the left to the words and phrases you hear from those evil, heartless, greedy conservatives.
From the Left you will hear “I feel.” From the Right, you will hear “I think.” From the Liberals, you will hear references to groups — The Blacks, the Poor, the Rich, the Disadvantaged, the Less Fortunate. From the Right, you will hear references to individuals. On the Left, you hear talk of group rights; on the Right, individual rights.
That about sums it up, really: Liberals feel. Liberals care. They are pack animals whose identity is tied up in group dynamics. Conservatives think — and, setting aside the theocracy crowd, their identity is centered on the individual.
Liberals feel that their favored groups have enforceable rights to the property and services of productive individuals. Conservatives, I among them I might add, think that individuals have the right to protect their lives and their property from the plunder of the masses.
In college, you developed a group mentality, but if you look closely at your diplomas you will see that they have your individual names on them. Not the name of your school mascot, or of your fraternity or sorority, but your name. Your group identity is going away. Your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity starts now.
If, by the time you reach the age of 30, you do not consider yourself to be a conservative, rush right back here as quickly as you can and apply for a faculty position. These people will welcome you with open arms. They will welcome you, that is, so long as you haven’t developed an individual identity. Once again you will have to be willing to sign on to the group mentality you embraced during the past four years.
Something is going to happen soon that is going to really open your eyes. You’re going to actually get a full-time job!
You’re also going to get a lifelong work partner. This partner isn’t going to help you do your job. This partner is just going to sit back and wait for payday. This partner doesn’t want to share in your effort but in your earnings.
Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent; an agent representing a strange and diverse group of people; an agent for every teenager with an illegitimate child; an agent for a research scientist who wanted to make some cash answering the age-old question of why monkeys grind their teeth. An agent for some poor demented hippie who considers herself to be a meaningful and talented artist, but who just can’t manage to sell any of her artwork on the open market.
Your new partner is an agent for every person with limited, if any, job skills, but who wanted a job at City Hall. An agent for tin-horn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million dollar companies that want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use this agent’s unimaginable power for their personal enrichment and benefit.
That agent is our wonderful, caring, compassionate, oppressive government Believe me, you will be awed by the unimaginable power this agent has–power that you do not have. A power that no individual has, or will have. This agent has the legal power to use force, deadly force to accomplish its goals.
You have no choice here. Your new friend is just going to walk up to you, introduce himself rather gruffly, hand you a few forms to fill out, and move right on in. Say hello to your own personal one-ton gorilla. It will sleep anywhere it wants to.
Now, let me tell you, this agent is not cheap. As you become successful it will seize about 40% of everything you earn. And no, I’m sorry, there just isn’t any way you can fire this agent of plunder, and you can’t decrease its share of your income. That power rests with him, not you.
So, here I am saying negative things to you about government. Well, be clear on this: It is not wrong to distrust the government. It is not wrong to fear government. In certain cases, it is not even wrong to despise government for government is inherently evil. Yes, a necessary evil, but dangerous nonetheless, somewhat like a drug. Just as a drug that in the proper dosage can save your life, an overdose of government can be fatal.
Now let’s address a few things that have been crammed into your minds at this university. There are some ideas you need to expunge as soon as possible. These ideas may work well in the academic environment, but they fail miserably out there in the real world.
First is that favorite buzzword of the media and academia: Diversity! You have been taught that the real value of any group of people – be it a social group, an employee group, a management group, whatever – is based on diversity. This is a favored liberal ideal because diversity is based not on an individual’s abilities or character, but on a person’s identity and status as a member of a group. Yes, it’s that liberal group identity thing again.
Within the great diversity movement group identification – be it racial, gender-based, or some other minority status – means more than the individual’s integrity, character, or other qualifications.
Brace yourself. You are about to move from this academic atmosphere where diversity rules, to a workplace and a culture where individual achievement and excellence actually count. No matter what your professors have taught you over the last four years, you are about to learn that diversity is absolutely no replacement for excellence, ability, and individual hard work. From this day on every single time you hear the word “diversity”, you can rest assured that there is someone close by who is determined to rob you of every vestige of individuality you possess.
We also need to address this thing you seem to have about “rights.” We have witnessed an obscene explosion of so-called “rights” in the last few decades, usually emanating from college campuses.
You know the mantra: You have the right to a job. The right to a place to live. The right to a living wage. The right to health care. The right to an education. You probably even have your own pet right – the right to a Beemer for instance, or the right to have someone else provide for that child you plan on downloading in a year or so.
Forget it. Forget those rights! I’ll tell you what your rights are. You have a right to live free, and to the results of 60% -75% of your labor. I’ll also tell you this. You have no right to any portion of the life or labor of another.
You may, for instance, think that you have a right to health care. After all, our president said so, didn’t he? But you cannot receive health care unless some doctor or health practitioner surrenders some of his time – his life – to you. He may be willing to do this for compensation, but that’s his choice. You have no “right” to his time or property. You have no right to his or any other person’s life or to any portion thereof.
You may also think you have some “right” to a job; a job with a living wage, whatever that is. Do you mean to tell me that you have a right to force your services on another person, and then the right to demand that this person compensate you with their money? Sorry, forget it. I am sure you would scream if some urban outdoorsmen (that would be “homeless person” for those of you who don’t want to give these less fortunate people a romantic and adventurous title) came to you and demanded his job and your money.
The people who have been telling you about all the rights you have are simply exercising one of theirs – the right to be imbeciles. Their being imbeciles didn’t cost anyone else either property or time. It’s their right, and they exercise it brilliantly.
By the way, did you catch my use of the phrase “less fortunate” a bit ago when I was talking about the urban outdoorsmen? That phrase is a favorite of the Left. Think about it, and you’ll understand why.
To imply that one person is homeless, destitute, dirty, drunk, spaced out on drugs, unemployable, and generally miserable because he is “less fortunate” is to imply that a successful person – one with a job, a home, and a future – is in that position because he or she was “fortunate.”
The dictionary says that fortunate means “having derived good from an unexpected place.” There is nothing unexpected about deriving good from hard work. There is also nothing unexpected about deriving misery from choosing drugs, alcohol, and the street.
If the Liberal Left can create the common perception that success and failure are simple matters of “fortune” or “luck,” then it is easy to promote and justify their various income redistribution schemes. After all, we are just evening out the odds a little bit. This “success equals luck” idea the liberals like to push is seen everywhere.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt once referred to high-achievers as “people who have won life’s lottery.” He wants you to believe they are making the big bucks because they are lucky. It’s not luck, my friends. It’s a choice. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was in a book by Og Mandino, entitled, “The Greatest Secret in the World.” The lesson? Very simple: “Use wisely your power of choice.”
That bum sitting on a heating grate, smelling like a wharf rat? He’s there by choice. He is there because of the sum total of the choices he has made in his life. This truism is absolutely the hardest thing for some people to accept, especially those who consider themselves to be victims of something or other – victims of discrimination, bad luck, the system, capitalism, whatever.
After all, nobody really wants to accept the blame for his or her position in life. Not when it is so much easier to point and say, “Look! He did this to me!” than it is to look into a mirror and say, “You S. O. B.! You did this to me!”
The key to accepting responsibility for your life is to accept the fact that your choices, every one of them, are leading you inexorably to either success or failure, however you define those terms.
Some of the choices are obvious: Whether or not to stay in school. Whether or not to get pregnant. Whether or not to hit the bottle. Whether or not to keep this job you hate until you get another better-paying job. Whether or not to save some of your money, or saddle yourself with huge payments for that new car.
Some of the choices are seemingly insignificant: Whom to go to the movies with. Whose car to ride home in. Whether to watch the tube tonight, or read a book on investing. But, and you can be sure of this, each choice counts.
Each choice is a building block – some large, some small. But each one is a part of the structure of your life. If you make the right choices, or if you make more right choices than wrong ones, something absolutely terrible may happen to you. Something unthinkable. You, my friend, could become one of the hated, the evil, the ugly, the feared, the filthy, the successful, the rich.
The rich basically serve two purposes in this country. First, they provide the investments, the investment capital, and the brains for the formation of new businesses. Businesses that hire people. Businesses that send millions of paychecks home each week to the un-rich.
Second, the rich are a wonderful object of ridicule, distrust, and hatred. Few things are more valuable to a politician than the envy most Americans feel for the evil rich.
Envy is a powerful emotion. Even more powerful than the emotional minefield that surrounded Bill Clinton when he reviewed his last batch of White House interns. Politicians use envy to get votes and power And they keep that power by promising the envious that the envied will be punished: “The rich will pay their fair share of taxes if I have anything to do with it.” The truth is that the top 10% of income earners in this country pays almost 50% of all income taxes collected. I shudder to think what these job producers would be paying if our tax system were any more “fair.”
You have heard, no doubt, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Interestingly enough, our government’s own numbers show that many of the poor actually get richer, and that quite a few of the rich actually get poorer. But for the rich who do actually get richer, and the poor who remain poor .. there’s an explanation — a reason. The rich, you see, keep doing the things that make them rich; while the poor keep doing the things that make them poor.
Speaking of the poor, during your adult life you are going to hear an endless string of politicians bemoaning the plight of the poor. So, you need to know that under our government’s definition of “poor” you can have a $5 million net worth, a $300,000 home and a new $90,000 Mercedes, all completely paid for. You can also have a maid, cook, and valet, and a million in your checking account, and you can still be officially defined by our government as “living in poverty.” Now there’s something you haven’t seen on the evening news.
How does the government pull off this one? Very simple, really. To determine whether or not some poor soul is “living in poverty,” the government measures one thing — just one thing. Income.
It doesn’t matter one bit how much you have, how much you own, how many cars you drive or how big they are, whether or not your pool is heated, whether you winter in Aspen and spend the summers in the Bahamas, or how much is in your savings account. It only matters how much income you claim in that particular year. This means that if you take a one-year leave of absence from your high-paying job and decide to live off the money in your savings and checking accounts while you write the next great American novel, the government says you are living in poverty.”
This isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you heard these gloomy statistics, is it? Do you need more convincing? Try this. The government’s own statistics show that people who are said to be “living in poverty” spend more than $1.50 for each dollar of income they claim. Something is a bit fishy here. Just remember all this the next time Charles Gibson tells you about some hideous new poverty statistics.
Why has the government concocted this phony poverty scam? Because the government needs an excuse to grow and to expand its social welfare programs, which translates into an expansion of its power. If the government can convince you, in all your compassion, that the number of “poor” is increasing, it will have all the excuse it needs to sway an electorate suffering from the advanced stages of Obsessive-Compulsive Compassion Disorder.
I’m about to be stoned by the faculty here. They’ve already changed their minds about that honorary degree I was going to get. That’s OK, though. I still have my PhD. in Insensitivity from the Neal Boortz Institute for Insensitivity Training. I learned that, in short, sensitivity sucks. It’s a trap. Think about it – the truth knows no sensitivity. Life can be insensitive. Wallow too much in sensitivity and you’ll be unable to deal with life, or the truth, so get over it.
Now, before the dean has me shackled and hauled off, I have a few random thoughts.
* You need to register to vote unless you are on welfare. If you are living off the efforts of others, please do us the favor of sitting down and shutting up until you are on your own again.
* When you do vote, your votes for the House and the Senate are more important than your vote for President. The House controls the purse strings, so concentrate your awareness there.
* Liars cannot be trusted, even when the liar is the Speaker of the House. If someone can’t deal honestly with you, send them packing.
* Don’t bow to the temptation to use the government as an instrument of plunder. If it is wrong for you to take money from someone else who earned it — to take their money by force for your own needs — then it is certainly just as wrong for you to demand that the government step forward and do this dirty work for you.
* Don’t look in other people’s pockets You have no business there. What they earn is theirs. What you earn is yours. Keep it that way. Nobody owes you anything, except to respect your privacy and your rights and leave you the hell alone.
* Speaking of earning, the revered 40-hour workweek is for losers Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don’t see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour The winners drive home in the dark.
* Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.
* Finally (and aren’t you glad to hear that word), as Og Mandino wrote,
1. Proclaim your rarity. Each of you is a rare and unique human being.
2. Use wisely your power of choice.
3. Go the extra mile, ‘drive home in the dark.
Oh, and put off buying a television set as long as you can. Now, if you have any idea at all what’s good for you, you will get out of here and never come back. Class dismissed.”