Looking at the list of commencement speakers this year, one finds them predictably liberal. Glenn Beck spoke at Liberty University, but that’s a conservative school.
There is Alec Baldwin, the leftist actor/activist (New York University); Anderson Cooper, news anchor at ratings-challenged CNN (Tulane University); Rachel Maddow, lefty commentator at another unwatched network — MSNBC, she spoke at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where 25 years ago I was shouted down by a group of lesbian students. There is also Michelle Obama (George Washington University); Katie Couric (Case Western Reserve); and Meryl Streep, who The Washington Post described as “the woman that every woman, young or old, aspires to be.” Really? Streep spoke at Barnard College.
It’s been many years since I was asked to deliver a commencement address, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I might say. This would be my abridged speech to the Class of 2010:
I’ve just observed the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. When my father went to his 50th, I thought he was an old man. I don’t feel old.
Where will you be in 50 years? You can plan now. Ask people older than yourself to tell you their mistakes so you can avoid making the same ones. You will make enough of your own.
We live in a “feelings” world, not an intellectual one. “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right,” says the song lyric. Yes it can, and often is. Make economic and relational choices based on cold hard facts, not feelings. Feelings come and go. Truth remains forever.
Live within your means. There is no shame in being middle class, even poor. What is shameful is being in debt, which enslaves you to outside forces at high interest rates. Look at debtor governments, including America. Economic freedom is a precious gift. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it to satisfy your lusts.
Marry someone who will be your partner in every way and then have children. Living together first robs you both of a great mystery. Statistics show it also reduces your chances for a successful marriage.
Your value does not lie in how much money you make, who you know or what office you hold. Make your goal more than accumulating money and buying stuff that eventually winds up in an estate sale. Contribute something to a fellow human being. Improving another life is not only a gift to that person, but to you.
Don’t forget God. There is no greater question than: “Does God exist and if He does, has He a plan for my life that I can know?” The answer determines your direction in this life and the next.
In the words of an anonymous Irish blessing:
“I wish you not a path devoid of clouds, nor a life on a bed of roses.
Not that you might never need regret, nor that you should never feel pain,
No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in times of trial,
When others lay crosses upon your shoulders.
When mountains must be climbed,
And chasms are to be crossed,
When hope can scarce shine through.
That every gift God gave you might grow along with you.
And let you give your gift of joy to all who care for you.
That you may always have a friend who is worth that name.
Whom you can trust,
And who helps you in times of sadness,
Who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.
One more wish I have for you:
That in every hour of joy and pain, you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you and for all who care for you.
This is my hope for you,
Now and forever.”
Now go hit the beach!
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.