|By Shortcakefairy (Shortcakefairy) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 06:34 am: Edit|
"The graduation speakers would always say '...as we go into the real world.' And I was like, as I went to visit my friends in college when I wasn’t in college, I was like how real is this, this is a 8ftx8ft white painted brick room that your parents are paying for, you have the credit card for 'emergencies,' like how real is that? I mean if that’s the graduation speech for high school, what’s the graduation speech for college, 'Oh right I was lying, we kinda fooled you there, pulled one over you.'"
|By Ares15 (Ares15) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 07:33 am: Edit|
|By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 01:36 pm: Edit|
Too true. Lol.
|By Demingy (Demingy) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 03:17 pm: Edit|
I whole-heartedly agree with that quote. It is actually pretty sad to see many new college graduates become stunned when actually faced with the "real world".
As ideal as it would be for me, unfortunately the "real world" does not consist of spending a good share of your waking hours learning new things in classes and spending time with friends or anything else you want to do with your time. Moral of the story boys and girls: Enjoy it while you can!
|By Magoo (Magoo) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit|
i agree with the quote, however, its not the best, idunno i guess it could have be written better....im sure there are more quotes that represent college life in all its surreal glory.
|By Kiwee (Kiwee) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit|
i agree with what he is saying, but if he wanted to say something insightful he could have been a bit more articulate, couldn't he?
|By Demingy (Demingy) on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 06:58 pm: Edit|
We're talking about John Mayer here.
|By Mayermatthews (Mayermatthews) on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 11:18 pm: Edit|
And John Mayer also said "I just found out there's no such thing as the real world/just a lie you have to rise above..."
I think that would be the one to think about.
|By Titanz05 (Titanz05) on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 11:26 pm: Edit|
Anyone hear Jon Stewart's commencment speech for William and Mary?
I thought it was awesome.
|By Somecanadianguy (Somecanadianguy) on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit|
Jon Stewart is amazing, Canada only got the Daily Show this year, but I watch it nightly (its on at midnight here).
|By Gianscolere (Gianscolere) on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 01:25 am: Edit|
i really like this commencement speech because the guest speaker took a cliched theme and delivered it with a unique fresh perspective.
Guest Speaker: Austan Goolsbee 87', Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
"First, I want to apologize to the Class of 2004. I was absolutely set up. I was not told that last year's speaker was the [former] President of the United States. I was not told that before that was a senator from the State of Massachusetts. My graduation speaker was some kid's dad, and that was the tradition that I knew. And they said, “Oh, yeah, we wanted to get a graduate this year.” So my qualification to be a speaker is my name is in the alumni directory, and that's why they picked me and that's it, so that's what you got.
I just want to tell you: you are here; it's hot; your clothes are uncomfortable; the chair is bad. Guess what, friends. That's what the real world is. You are ready. So I'm going to try to be brief. It was about 30 degrees hotter than this on my graduation. We were just dying, and all I could remember thinking was I would start booing – but this is my friend's dad.
I asked my father-in-law. I gave him the setup. I said the President spoke last year. Now nobody has ever heard of me. What am I going to say? He said, ‘Well, don't try to be funny and don't try to sound smart – just be yourself.” So with that I'm going to give you a choice. Doctor Robertson advised, “Maybe you could talk about your research,” and my old student friend, Mr. Ball, said, “Maybe don't have a point, just remember some stories from when you were at Milton.”
So I'm going to give you a choice. Option A is a laborious summary of the econometrics of tax policy or, Option B, is I will just tell you some things when I was at Milton. How many people want A? Yeah, the parents. They need to know that. Nobody ever picks econometrics, so we are going with B.
My only advantage is I guarantee you that in 17 years you will not remember me, anything I said, or anything about this day. I talked to many classmates: They barely remember. “Don't you remember? It was that kid's dad.” “Oh, yeah. What did he say?” “I don't know. I don't remember.” It's funny; I barely remember anything. Forget my essay. I don't remember [the essay that Mr. Silbaugh said I wrote on my Milton application] – I barely remember my own name. Several of these buildings weren't here, so I don't have to feel bad for not remembering that, but Hallowell was a boys’ dorm. I lived in it, right? I can't go in it now. The only continuity is they are still working on the Big Dig. That was going to be done sometime by our graduation.
And so I asked Mr. Foster to ask his seniors what did people want to hear. And he sent me back a list of what they didn't want to hear. They didn't want any mention of the war, they didn't want to hear about how lucky they are to be here, they don't want to hear how they owe the world anything or that much is expected of them. Those were going to be my three points.
So first I thought I would tell you how I got to Milton. I was born in Waco, Texas, and my parents moved to California when I was a kid. I had never, I don't think, been east of my grandmother's in Waco, Texas. I was basically a total misfit. I'm shocked that I wrote that in the essay [that I was a mental heavyweight]. I had no idea what I was doing. My dad didn't know what I should wear. I was badly dressed. I had snow pants. I had one of those hats where just your eyes come out.
When we came to visit, my mom was really feisty and said, “I like this school.” “Look, there is a woman on the football team,“ because there was a woman dressed in football pants. And my dad said, “Well, I don't know.” There's someone else with a light on top of her head. And I was sad to find out they got rid of Space Day. We had a day we called a Space Day. It turned out we visited on Space Day, and we didn't know. We thought people just dressed like that. My mom said, “I like this school where people wear a light on their head.” I guess [Space Day] was replaced by Senior Dog Day.
So I thought I would give you some advice that I learned from Milton. So, the first thing I got my old yearbook and the first thing I'd advise you is to show up, because I looked at many things that I did or I remembered doing and my picture is not in the yearbook because I just never showed up. So, Scott [Chaloff], you were punished for not going to class. When you get to college, no one is going to punish you. You can go; you can cut. Trust me, go. You can sleep in, miss class, you will know nothing, you will flunk out, your parents will be upset. So just go. Just show up. That's more than two-thirds of life is just showing up.
First change your clothes: I am only in two pictures in the yearbook and I'm wearing the same clothes in both pictures – so I'm hoping it was on the same day. There's one technicality. I'm walking into Ware Hall with the teacher of the Spanish Club. My Spanish – they have problems understanding me when I order at Taco Bell so I know I was not in the Spanish Club.
What you are going to remember is not at all predictable. In my yearbook there is a signature, somebody signed the yearbook and it says, “We will never forget that crazy night in Back Bay, will we?” Evidently, we will. My second advice to you is to take some risks or at least one risk.
In 1990, when Poland threw off communism, I went to Poland. I was working at the Ministry of Finance, and it really was an amazing time. I took a chunk out of the Berlin Wall with a chisel and it’s in the laundry room of my house, which probably wasn't a good idea. I've found out they structured it with asbestos so I probably poisoned myself, but it is there in the laundry room. And I'm glad I did that although it did generate my lifelong distaste for travel. I thought of starting a guidebook series, Let's Not Go!, but people who don't want to travel don't want to buy a guidebook.
So go now, take a risk now, because believe me when you get old there are going to be a lot of things you're not willing to do. Food you are willing to eat now, you are not going to touch it when you're old; places you'd go; beds you would sleep in. Now I should say, Mr. Ball and I were on the speech team, and you do not want to share a room with that guy because he can snore wicked loud.
If you ask the people that graduated with me what was the highlight of Milton, they don't remember much but everybody remembers the night we switched dorms with the girls’ dorm in Goodwin in the middle of the night. So girls were in Goodwin; we were in Hallowell. And we got up – there was no email, no cell phones. It wasn't that easy to coordinate things. We all got up at 3 o'clock in the morning. We went out along the street. And we had agreed, okay, “We are only going to break one rule,” which was leaving the dorm. We are not gong to meet each other, we were not going to talk, so it wasn't as if we were cavorting or anything.”
So they snuck out at 3 in the morning, and we went through the cemetery. They all went in. They woke up, we came down, “Yeah, we are the heros.” The dorm heads were really pissed off as well they might be. Thirty-five high school girls left in the middle of the night, and no one noticed. So they were really upset. Everybody remembers that.
The only thing is that much is unpredictable because we hid in the cemetery, and we all ducked down behind the wall. There is that wall across the street. Only it was covered in poison ivy. We all got poison ivy on the back of our heads and then we slept in these people's beds, and they all got poison ivy. So if you are going to switch dorms, don't lean against the wall. That's the only advice I can tell you.
Now, don't take stupid risks. When I was in Poland there was another guy there. You know what's great about this – this guy is a Ph.D. – he says, “I'm going to get all my dental surgery done here and it costs 1/8th as much as in the U.S.” I said, “It doesn't sound like a good idea.” He said, “It's great. Although they don't have any anesthetic, what they have is an amnesiac.” I said, “What is that?” He said, “Well, you feel it, but then you can't remember it.” I said, “I'll tell you what. If I have dental surgery with no anesthesia, I'm damn sure I want to remember it so I don't do that again.” What is the logic of that? So don't take stupid risks.
My third piece of advice is don't count on others to bail you out. My grandma used to tell me that 80 percent of the world doesn't care about your problems and the other 20 percent are glad, and I believe that that is true unless you are on the speech team. [Then] it becomes greater than 20 percent. Maybe it's different now. We didn't have a building. We didn't have all the stuff.
We were in the basement of Wigg Hall and nobody really liked the speech team and that year the nationals were in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we didn't have any money or we didn't have enough money to go. So they said we need to raise money. Now nobody wanted to give us money to go to Fort Lauderdale. That's the last thing they wanted to do. And the idea that Ms. Simon and Mr. DeLetis had [was to] have a talk-a-thon and we will get people to sponsor us to talk for 24 straight hours and then they will pay us money and we'll go to Fort Lauderdale.
Now, nobody was giving us any money. So I realized they would pay us way more to shut up, and so we had a shut-up-a-thon, and we shut up for 48 hours. Nobody was allowed to speak. We got like three times more money than we needed to go to Fort Lauderdale. I had to get a little tape player because everyone had to come up to talk to you. And I just had four things; “yes,” “no,” “I don't know,” and “go screw yourself.” You would be surprised how much of life can be answered by those four answers.
So don't count on them to bail you out, but I'll tell you this: at least be on their side. When you get to college, your parents or your roommate's parents are going to call your room. And if your roommate is not there, the correct answer is, they say, “I need to speak to Mike.” “Mike is at the library.” Just tell them that. It always works. He is, really. It's Saturday, 10 o'clock. Yes, he really had to go the library to get something done. So just lie. That will work.
The next advice – I only have two more. One is do something that you like. Not necessarily the easiest thing. You're going to get into college, everybody is going to law school, everybody is going to be a lawyer. And then eventually, “Wait, did I really want to do this?” Try something that you like. I was impressed by the senior projects. They are more ambitious than the senior projects when I was here. The tree-climbing senior project. I had a cooking thing going on. That was mine. There is no kitchen in Hallowell, so that was particularly perfect.
The thing I want to tell you is you have to trade off. I can do what I love or I can do this thing that makes money. I wouldn't be an economist if I didn't have something depressing to tell you so I will tell you this. By the time that your parents retire the budget indicates that we are going to be about 21 trillion dollars under-funded. So taxes are going to be very, very high and there is never going to have been a more tax-advantaged time to do what you love rather than doing what's going to make you money.
Now, the alternative version of that is when you get to college you will frequently have to choose between a good teacher and some subject matter that interests you. Choose the teacher. There is not a subject that I took at Milton – I don't remember anything except in Mr. Connolly's class, I remember we read The 80 Yard Run. Do you still read The 80 Yard Run? It's about a guy who ran 80 yards in high school and then he always looks back on his life. That's all I remember, but if you have a good teacher, you will never forget them as long as you live. Mr. Zilliax is here - Mr. Connolly. You will never forget these people, so always choose the teacher instead of the subject.
By the way, if your parents give you a hard time, “Don't be a philosophy major; there's no future in it,” say, “You know, dad, isn't yours the generation that didn't save enough and now the social security trust fund is under-funded and they have to raise taxes,” and they will leave you alone.
The last thing that I will tell you is life is not going to be predictable. We had in our class two people that became ministers. And I assure you that one of those people – there was no way that you would have thought that person was going to be a minister. We had two artists. We had a guy who used to sell – when you were hungry you would say, “Hey, can I have a Dorito?” “I'll sell you each Dorito for 5 cents.” He now teaches public school in South Boston. Many of these things were totally unpredictable.
One guy – I don't know if I should tell this story but, okay. I will not tell you what dorm. There were two students in one of the dorms that didn't wash their sheets the entire year. They would bemoan at night going to bed, “Gosh, my sheets are so disgusting. This smells disgusting.” The one on top said, “You think that's disgusting, I haven't washed my sheets since the beginning of the year. That's even more disgusting.” He said, “If you think that's so bad, I'll trade with you.” Okay, they trade.
After not washing the sheets for five more weeks, “God, this is disgusting.” “You think that's disgusting mine are even more.” So they keep switching. One of those guys, the last I heard from him soon after college he went somewhere – he was trying to meet some girl – he climbed up a tree, fell out of the tree and broke both his arms. So this guy he ended up buying a company; he's the president of something. You would never have predicted it.
When you graduate from college, it's really not like that. Once you graduate from college most people know what they are doing and you could have picked them out, but here you get the chance to reinvent yourself, to screw up. You've got four years before there are any consequences for your actions. Don't tell them that, but it's true.
When I was a student I'm going to say an old guy –
he was an old guy, Class of 1920 or something –he came back and he had gone to Yale and that was very unusual at the time because almost everybody went to Harvard. I remember asking the guy how did you decide to go to Yale. He said, “Well, back then people came in and the guy from Harvard had a paper and you had to fill your name out on the paper if you wanted to go, but by the time I got there the paper was full. And I didn't want to wait for him to bring the next paper, so I just signed up with the Yale guy.” That blew me away.
So I realize now with media and double reach and all the various categories they tell you that you are never going to get in any place; it is much harder to predict where you are going to be but that's the fun of the thing. So I'm not going to tell you that – I'm certainly not going to mention the war. I'm not going to tell you that you are lucky to be here. I'm not going to tell you that you owe the world.
I will tell you that I was lucky to be here. I'm glad that woman had a siren on top of her head or who knows what would have happened. I would probably be stuck at West Beach: I was in the bathroom and the bus left, and I was just sitting at this bus stop for about three hours until I remembered I was on the team, and I came back. I would probably still be there if I hadn't seen that girl with the light on her head.
I came as a misfit, totally maladjusted to the world not just to Milton. I am sure my wife would say I still dress badly, and I'm not necessarily normal but I at least am functional. And one of the great things about Milton is I met amazing people who were really, really different than I was. If you went somewhere else, that wouldn't have been true. Most everybody would have been just like you.
So in closing I'll tell you two things. I would give you the advice to be yourself, but really for some people that's about the worst advice you can give. So instead I will tell you, since this is for posterity—it is being videotaped—I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way."
Milton Academy Graduation Address, 2004
"Austan Goolsbee ’87, professor of economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, will speak at the Academy’s 203rd commencement exercises on June 4, 2004.
Named one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow in 2002 by the World Economic Forum, a Switzerland-based group that builds partnerships between business and society, Austan’s research has focused on major public policy issues of the new economy, including the economics of the Internet. His research and writings have covered diverse areas including Internet commerce, technology adoption, stock options and executive compensation, and government policy. [Full Story]
In addition to teaching at the University of Chicago, Austan is an editor of the Journal of Law and Economics, a research fellow at the American Bar Foundation and at the National Bureau of Economic Research and recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. He has served as a special consultant to the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice for Internet Policy, and has advised Congress on issues of Internet taxation. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, and many others.
Goolsbee graduated summa cum laude with both a B.A. and M.A. in economics from Yale University, and with a Ph.D in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
|By Gianscolere (Gianscolere) on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 01:34 am: Edit|
here is bill clinton's speech from last year's commencement.
Remarks by former President William J. Clinton
at Milton Academy's Commencement
June 6, 2003
"Thank you very much. Mr. Silbaugh, Dr. Robertson, Members of the Board, faculty, parents, friends and students and graduates of this Class of 2003.
I used to say when I was President that I always had the privilege of speaking last and the burden of knowing that everything that really needed to be said had already been said. I never felt it so strongly as I do today. I would be very proud if I were the parents of Anna Elliot and Luke Harris. I would be very proud if I were the parents of the classmates that they discussed, and I feel a whole lot better about the future of my country after I heard these speeches by these two young people.
Some of you may know I'm here because of a friendship that goes back over 30 years, when I was barely older than you, with Ira Magaziner whose son John is a member of your class and who won a prize for dramatic performance at the National Forensics Championship. I have known John and his brother, Seth, who took his shirt off at graduation last year, and his sister, Sarah, who is also a student here and their mother Suzanne for a long time. I think John could have won a national award for dramatic performance when he was 5. And I'm very honored to be here and to be part of his graduation today, too.
I want to congratulate the speech and debate team for winning the tournament sweepstakes a few weeks ago. I could have used you in the White House, and I hope that you will keep debating. That's a big part of what I want to say today.
Some of you know I am in the process of writing my memoirs. It is really a process of rediscovery, of recovery of lost memories, and it is remarkable when you get to be my age and you think about things that happened to you when you were your age. The most remarkable thing, which is a good argument for your keeping diaries now, is that I find that I can quite often remember with great clarity things that happened to me, but I'm not entirely sure how I felt about them at the time.
There's a difference in remembering an occurrence, an encounter, a friend, an experience and remembering how you felt about it. But in all the archeological digs in my psyche, the biggest find I keep running across is the rich debt I owe to my teachers. My editor said that I may have more about my teachers in my memoirs than anybody who has ever written oneóunless he makes me cut some of it outóbut I realize now what a profound impact they had on me
from the beginning to the end of my educational experience, and how they made me hunger to learn for a lifetime; how they walked the fine line of making me believe that I was smart enough to learn anything that I needed to learn and keeping me humble enough to know that I had better keep on learning.
And so one thing I would like to say to you today is that everybody extols teachers at commencement. Most of them are grossly underpaid, most of them do what they do out of love and belief in the integrity and importance of their mission. And before you leave here today I hope you find a way to find and thank at least one of them for making your life better and stronger.
I have been touched in many ways by Milton Academy. From the time I was a young man I read and loved the poems of T.S. Elliot, Class of 1906. When I was President I gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to one of my public service heroes, Elliot Richardson, Class of 1937. I worked closely for eight years with Senator Edward Kennedy, Class of 1950, surely one of the dozen most effective United States Senators in either party in the last 100 years. And I worked side by side with Deval Patrick, Class of 1974, to advance the cause of civil rights.
I really first learned about Milton Academy from Deval, who grew up on Chicago's rough south side. His father left home when Deval was 4. He was in elementary school next to one of the toughest housing projects in America, and then he applied to Milton and got in. And when the officials here told him to bring a jacket to campus, his grandmother bought him a windbreaker. They didn't know what was meant.
He was terrified when he came, but one day in front of an assembly he was reading a Kipling poem and one of your great teachers, Mr. Millet, was in the audience. When Deval finished, when he told me this story, I'll never forget this, he saw that Mr. Millet had tears in his eyes, and he realized, and I quote, "That's the kind of thing that made a kid like me believe that things are going to work out."
Things worked out pretty well for Deval Patrick. So again I say to Mr. Millet and all the other teachers here, I thank you. I thank you for taking in those who have been left out and for
challenging the privileged to reach beyond comfort to service to others.
Let me say one other thing to the Class of 2003. I am well aware I am now the only thing standing between you and your diploma. Almost 35 years ago to the day I graduated from Georgetown University on what started out to be a beautiful day like this in a great open space like this. My commencement speaker was the mayor of Washington, D.C., Walter Washington. And just as Mayor Washington was about to speak, this huge storm cloud rolled over and the thunder began, and it was obvious an enormous downpour was about to occur.
Therefore, I'm the only person present here today who remembers verbatim the commencement address given at his college graduation. The Mayor said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, if we don't get out of here, we are all going to drown. I will send you a printed copy of my remarks, congratulations, good luck and God bless you." My class would have voted for Mayor Washington for president that day. Since there aren't any clouds, I won't be that brief, but I will try to remember how popular he was with all of us.
I just want to make a couple of points to you today. First, the world that you enter today may seem quite different from the world that you found when you started Milton Academy. For during the last decade of the 20th century prospects seemed rosier, our economy was strong, poverty and inequality was down, the world was making progress toward peace from Northern Ireland to Bosnia and Kosovo to the Middle East to Africa. Science and technology seemed to offer limitless prospects for prosperity and progress and environmental protection.
In the last two and a half years you have seen a terrorist attack on the United States, the anthrax scare, terrorist attacks elsewhere, the collapse of the telecommunications industry, and the dot-com stocks, the reversal of economic progress and the rise of poverty, accompanied by, I must say regretfully, ever-bitter partisanship in the nation's capital.
Here is the first point I want to make. You should be very concerned about the challenges we face today, but you have to understand them in the broader context, and you should also remember that sometimes there is a big difference between what's in the headlines and the trend lines. The headlines are today's news; the trend lines are the direction in which we are going.
And what I want to argue to you is that the trend lines in 2003 are not very different from the trend lines in 1999, good and bad. And they tell you what you should care about and do. In 1999 most Americans didn't think we were vulnerable to terror but all of us who were paying attention did, and we tried to do something about it. There have been terrorist attacks on Americans for 20 years, then going all the way back to the late '70s. They were just by and large in other countries, although the first World Trade Center attack was in '93.
The dangers of unsecured chemical and biological and nuclear stocks were apparent then, and we were spending a lot of your tax money actually trying to secure them. On the other hand, in 2003 even though the economy is down, the telecommunications sector, which was devastated believe it or not, is still increasing at 50 to 75 percent a year and will help to lead us in the end to a brighter future.
We continue to have breathtaking scientific discoveries. Because of our ability to sequence the human genome, we have already analyzed the SARS virus in greater detail in a matter of weeks than we had in the first few years of the AIDS virus. So a lot of the good things that were more apparent four years ago are still a part of our reality today.
Think of all the good things that have happened since you have been here. The genome was
sequenced. And let me just mention what I think the relevance of that will be. When most of you have children you will bring your babies home from the hospital with a gene card that will tell you your child's strengths and weaknesses. We have already identified the two main variances that are a high predictor of breast cancer, close on Alzheimer's, close on Parkinson's.
It will be frightening to some extent, but it will be encouraging because you can do these things and you can dramatically increase the quality and length of your children's lives. I believe your children will have life expectancies well in excess of 90 years. Nanotechnology will help us develop diagnostic tools to find tumors at submicroscopic levels which may virtually make 100 percent of them curable which will dramatically change the meaning of middle age and late life in America and throughout the world.
While you worry about terror, there has never been an example in all of human history which terrorism has caused the collapse of a nation. When I was your age we were still worrying about nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union and China had nuclear weapons, too. Now we are largely reconciled to our former adversaries.
Even though I don't think the rich countries of the world are doing near enough for the poor, they are sending more aid than ever before with more promise to come as the Congress just unanimously adopted the President's recommendation to go to $3 billion a year in spending on AIDS. All these good things happened while you were here, too.
Here is the point I want to make. In the trend lines there are good and bad long-term developments, but they all reflect the fundamental nature of the world you will live in. And that is the world is growing more interdependent. It's getting harder and harder for people to escape each other. You have people here from, what, 18 foreign countries in this class. After September 11, Hillary and I went down to one elementary school in Lower Manhattan that had beenóthe building had been damagedóand they were going somewhere else, and we went to encourage the kids. In this one elementary school there were children from over 80 different national and ethnic groups.
For good or ill, we cannot escape each other. That is the huge trend line. And, therefore, the major job of citizenship for the next 20 years will be to spread the benefits and reduce the risks of interdependence, to try to build a world community of shared benefits, shared responsibility and shared values. This is work you have already begun, believe it or not. Half of you serve in your community managing blood drives, hosting Special Olympics, helping the elderly, sorting food at neighborhood food banks. That's an important part of it.
When Alexis de Tocqueville came here in the early part of the 19th century he said, citizen service was one of the defining national characteristics of America. I hope you will continue to do that; perhaps later in the Peace Corps or in AmeriCorps. I hope when you grow up, and some of you are going to get very wealthy, I hope you will take some of your time and money in service.
I'm very grateful that Ira Magaziner today is working with my foundation to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. We are going out there trying to get cheaper AIDS drugs to all the 16 Caribbean countries and three in Africa that have 16 percent of the cases there. I hope you will continue to do this. It matters. One person's service matters.
Second thing I want to say is I hope more of you will vote and feel comfortable thinking and debating out loud. Your generation has gotten a little bit of a bum rap as being selfish. That's not true. You do any more community service than any generation before, much more than my generation did, but you are less likely to vote than any generation since the 18-year-old vote was granted.
I'm not quite sure why that is. Maybe it's because you think there's too much partisanship, maybe it's because of the really mindless nature of a lot of the political debate that fills the television airways. But your vote clearly matters as you see in the last election. It's better if it's counted but in a close election it matters.
But I don't think it's enough. I was so glad to hear what you said about debate. I supported the resolution in Congress to give the President the authority to go forward in Iraq. I did not agree with the position that the French government took, but I was stunned at the level of demonization of France simply because they disagreed with us on how the UN inspection process should play out. Then it was almost as if no one could debate it.
So I went around America like a lost boy in the dark with a lantern. I'd go to crowds and say, ìNow, how many of you know that we are not going to Canada and we are condemning the Germans and condemning the French? how many of you know that Canadian, German and French soldiers are serving side by side with us in Afghanistan today looking for Osama Bin Laden. He's the guy that caused September 11." And I found out not many people did. I said, "How many of you know that this new Afghan army, which is very important to the long-term stability of Afhganistan, not having a resurgence of the Taliban, not having a resurgence of Al Qaidaóhow many of you know it's being trained in a joint effort by only two militaries; the French and the Americans working together, while we're saying we ought to rename french fries, for goodness sake.
I was stunned that in the last election cycle anybody who wasn't for that Homeland Security Bill, which on balance I thought would probably do more good than harm so I wasn't against it, but it was no panacea. I was stunned that anybody that wasn't for it right then just the way it was written was all of a sudden someone that didn't care about America and a traitor to his country. And because we stopped thinking, Max Cleland lost his Senate seat in Georgia.
Now, Max Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, and he was defeated by a man like me who had deferments and didn't go. Three deferrments. Max lost three limbs and the guy that beat him had three deferrments, and he convinced the voters Max wasn't an patriot because he didn't want to vote for the bill just exactly the way it was written. He wasn't even against the Homeland Security Bill. That is evidence that when people get scared or discouraged or cynical or under stress, that's when you need most to think; but that's when it's hardest to think.
So what I want to say to you is we may have another terrorist attack that succeeds in America, but we will not be destroyed by it. Look at what the Israelis have done. Look at what they lived with. We can only be destroyed or permanently scarred if we react to the present moment in a way that changes the character of our nation or compromises the future of our children. It is our reaction that is at issue here.
So I say to you, I want you to serve, I want you to vote, but most important I want you to think and talk and debate. There are three questions that will shape your future, and I'm not going into it today except to say here are what the questions are and you need to have your answer. What is the nature of the modern world? Global interdependence. I have
already covered that.
Second question is: What should we do about it? We talked a little bit about that. We need a security strategy, we need a strategy for more friends and fewer enemies, we need a strategy for more cooperation. We have got to keep making America better.
Third question is: How should we do it? Should we act on our own? Should we cooperate with others when it suits us, or should we strive to build international cooperation whenever possible. Now I favor the latter, though you can't give up the other options.
But my point is, you don't have to agree with me, but you have got to be able to answer those questions. You have to be able to think and talk and debate and discuss and answer those questions. What is the world like into which you will bring your children? What should you do about it to make it better and how should you do it?
No matter what your background, no matter whether you are in music or science or the humanities, you need to be able to ask and answer those questions, and I hope it will lead you to intelligent debate and to voting and to service. Let me say this in closing. I can honestly tell you that in spite of all the fights I was in as President, all the battles I fought, the ones I won and the ones I didn't, on the day I walked out of the White House I was more idealistic about the possibilities of free men and woman to solve their problems, meet new challenges, and make changes, than I was on the day I walked in.
I believe--look, there is a reason that we have been around here for over 200 years. More than half the time on the big questions, more than half the people will do the right thing if they have the information and they have the context. You have an unbelievable gift in the education you have here. It's going to propel you into further education that will give you greater gifts. But just remember, there is always going to be some difference between the headlines and the trend lines. You have to see the big things and keep your eyes on the big picture. And you have to yearn down deep inside to make the world different, and you have to be willing to serve and devote, yes, but first to think and to discuss.
Freedom requires thought and then action, and if you give both those things to your future, you will live in the most interesting, diverse period of discovery, peace and prosperity the world has ever known.
All of human history is a race between the builders and the wreckers. You're just dealing with the latest chapter. And every single time--before it was too late--the builders have prevailed, the forces of hope have prevailed over the forces of fear, the forces of unity and community have prevailed over the forces of those who thought our differences were more important than our common humanity. It will come out that way again if only you do your part.
Thank you. God bless us and good luck."
Source: http://www.milton.edu/news/pages/02-03archive/graduation2003.asp, where you can also find student speeches.
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