The Commencement Speech You Never Heard
“I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from exhortations of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented than cured. I think moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven…” –Benjamin Franklin
Patriots, I am in New Orleans today at the World War II Museum with my favorite War II Vet, my father. The guest column this week is from my colleague, Neal Boortz, a lawyer and nationally syndicated radio host. Given all of the commencement speeches delivered in recent weeks, I invite you to read the commencement speech Boortz has never been invited to deliver, as excerpted from his book by the same title.
The Commencement Speech You Need To Hear
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 your way 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. This isn’t the first time you’re not going to like what someone has to say … your bosses, for instance. Things change today. There will be a lot less pandering to your every whim, and a lot more demands for performance. You will remember what I had to say though. Especially after about 10 years out there in the real world. This, of course, does not apply to those of you who will seek your careers and your fortunes as government employees … or as college professors.
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 good-bye 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.
OK .. it’s time for you to hear something – to learn something – that may, but should not, come as a complete surprise.
You are the victims of a terrible fraud. You have just completed your travels through an educational system that had no real intention of educating you … at least not too much.
You’re pretty hot at research right now, aren’t you? While those skills are still with you, perhaps you would like to put them to work studying the start of compulsory government education in the early part of the last century. Do you really think that the goal of our compulsory government education system has been to actually educate you?
Did you study H. L. Mencken? In 1924 he wrote an article for the American Mercury where he defined the true aim of our then-fledgling system of education. Listen carefully:
The aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is the aim in the United States and that is its aim everywhere else.
Think about this. Who owns the schools? The government. Who mandates attendance? The government. Who staffs the schools? The government … with government workers. Who directs the work of the schools? The government. Can you see where it is in the best interests of government to suppress dissent and originality? Can you understand why government would want a standardized citizenry? Those who dissent; those who produce originality of thought; those who exceed the standards are a threat to what? The status quo, that’s what … and government likes the calming influence of the status quo.
There’s an amazing book that you need to put at the top of your reading list … now that you don’t have to focus on college texts any more. The book is by John Taylor Gatto, and it’s called “The Underground History of American Education.” Gatto was the teacher of the year in New York City. He wrote an extraordinary letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2001. Let me share the first part of that letter with you:
I’ve taught public school for 26 years but I just can’t do it anymore. For years I asked the local school board and superintendent to let me teach a curriculum that doesn’t hurt kids, but they had other fish to fry. So I’m going to quit, I think.
I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.
I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.
Just google “I quit, I think” and you can read the rest of Gatto’s letter to the Wall Street Journal. You’ve been had … big time. Read the letter. You’ll see how – and how bad.
Can you see why government would want to keep you dumbed down and placated? Gatto’s book explains it all. He talks about the effort to bring the Prussian style of education to the United States in the early 1900s. He describes his shock that Americans were to eager to adopt what he calls “one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture … an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens in order to render the populace "manageable.”
So … do you think you know enough to be a threat to the ruling class?
How many of you can name your two US Senators? How about the Vice President? Who is your congressman? How often is he elected? Can you give me the gist of the 10th Amendment?
Am I trying to insult you here? No, I’m trying to illustrate something.
What are the three branches of government? Who officially represents the government of this state – not the people, the government – in Washington?
How strong is your economic knowledge? Do you believe that the rich should pay their fair share? If so, can you tell me what percentage of total income the hated top 1% earns and what percentage of income taxes they pay? If you can’t, don’t worry too much. I’ve interviewed presidential candidates who can’t tell you.
Here’s a toughie … What is the difference between a profit and a profit margin? Do corporations pay taxes? If so, where do they get the money?
A person who cannot answer virtually all of these questions is a person who is going to present absolutely no threat at all to current political thought. This is a person who will repeat government feel-good slogans and political mantras … and then turn to a discussion of the last episode of “Lost.”
Feeling pretty good about your education now, aren’t you?
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 post-graduate reality: Pay attention to the news, read newspapers – as long as we have 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 and the principal of looting. Conservatives and Libertarians think – and, setting aside the theocracy crowd, their identity is centered on the individual – individual worth and achievement.
Liberals feel that their favored groups, have enforceable rights to the property and services of productive individuals. Conservatives (and Libertarians, myself 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. This group identity nonsense needs to go away … now. Your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity should begin immediately.
There’s a chance that, over the next eight to ten years, the lessons of life will not have brought you to the rational thinking processes of a libertarian or a conservative. If you find that to be your reality when you reach the age of 30 … 35 tops … then you need to 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 find that you have a 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 – just your earnings.
Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent; an agent representing a strange and diverse group of people. An agent for every single mother raising 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 aging 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; for every person who ignored all proffered educational opportunities, for every loser dreaming of nothing more than a job at City Hall. Your partner will be an agent for tin-horn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million-dollar companies who want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use the unimaginable power of this agent’s for their personal enrichment and benefit.
That agent is our wonderful, caring, compassionate, oppressive Imperial Federal 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, will have or should 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 itself rather gruffly, hand you a few forms to fill out, and move right on in. Say hello to your own personal one ton gorilla with a gun. 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, this looter, and you can’t decrease it’s share of your income. That power rests with him, not you.
Does it bother you that I’m not particularly fond of our government? Well, be clear on this: It is not wrong to distrust government. It is not wrong to fear government. In certain cases it is not even wrong to despise government for government is inherently evil. Oh yes, I know it’s a necessary evil, but it is 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 academic environment, but they fail miserably out there in the real world.
First – that favorite buzz word of the media, government 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, one of the fourteen different classifications of sexual proclivities, 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. Unless, of course, you are working for the government or academia.
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 you have a right to whatever wealth you are able to produce with your labor. You’ll be disappointed to learn that you have no right to any portion of the life or labor of another.
You may think, for instance, that you have a right to health care. After all, the 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 any portion of his or any other person’s life.
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? What if he doesn’t need your services? I can’t wait for you to point that one out for me in our Constitution. I sure would like to be a fly on the wall when 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.
And while I’m on the subject of jobs … let’s straighten out a bit of a misconception you may have. Jobs belong to the employer, not to the employee. You will go “look” for a job. Well, if the job belonged to you wouldn’t have to look very far would you? Businessmen create those jobs. The jobs belong to them, not you. They will, with conditions, offer you that job if they believe them to be capable. And guess what? They’re not going to pay you what you’re worth. They’re going to pay you less. Know why? Because if every employer out there paid every employee exactly what that employee was worth, where is the profit for the employer? You are there to make money for the person who gave you the job. To do that you have to produce wealth. You get a good portion of it … but some must go to the employer. There is simply no other reason to hire you. And another thing … there is no “shipping OUR jobs overseas.” They are the employer’s jobs, not yours. They can do with them what they wish. Get used to it.
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 and the poor, poor, pitiful, pathetic poor? 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 instead of education and personal responsibility.
If the 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 seizure and redistribution schemes. After all, you didn’t work for the money, did you? You were just lucky, and here we are just evening out the odds a little bit, aren’t we?
This “success equals luck” idea the liberals like to push is seen everywhere. One time Democrat presidential candidate Richard Gephardt liked to refer to high-achievers as “people who have won life’s lottery.” He wanted you to believe they are making the big bucks because they are lucky; all they did was buy the right lottery ticket. What an insult this is to the man or woman who works that 60 hour week to provide for a family.
It’s not luck, my friends. It’s 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.
Quite a few people have followed that tragic path.
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. 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 in America 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 in America. So, you need to know that under our government’s definition of “poor” you can have a $5 million net worth, a $900,000 paid-for home and a new $160,000 Bentley, all completely paid for. You can also have a maid, cook, and valet, and $10 million in a 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 this one off? 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 Katie Couric puffs up and tells you about some hideous new poverty statistics.
And please remember this: The average person in this country described as “poor” has a higher standard of living than the average European. Not the average “poor” European, the average European.
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.
Well, it looks like I’m about to be given the hook. The faculty looks a little angry. Come to think of it … some of you look a little ticked off too. Are you starting to get it? The fun times are fading … it’s time to get down to business, and the people you will be working for have a much tighter grip on reality than these people who have been teaching you for the past years have. Why don’t you try occupying the boss’s office the next time something doesn’t go your way. Let us all know how that works out for you.
Well … I’m guessing that they’ve already changed their minds about that honorary degree I was going to get. That’s OK, though. I still have my Ph.D. in Insensitivity from the Neal Boortz Institute for Insensitivity Training. You’re about to start studying for yours. 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’re part of the moocher class. 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. While we’re paying the bills you can keep your gripes to yourself. As long as we’re taking care of you we would appreciate it if you would just sit down, shut up and get a skill. Or have the decency to just stay out of our way so we can get the job done.
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. Try to put as much importance on learning your congressman’s name as you do remembering the name of your aerobics or yoga instructor.
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 manage to 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.
Care as much about America’s future as you do about American Idol.
Oh, and put off buying that flat screen as long as you can.
Now, if you have any idea at all what’s good for you, you will get the hell out of here and never come back.