My Address to the Graduates
Added 05-17-21 01:31:02am EST - “As promised, below is the prepared text of my commencement address to the New Saint Andrews College class of 2021 from last Thursday. I think there will be a video posted to YouTube at some point, and I'll post it when it is available.…” - Powerlineblog.com
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As promised, below is the prepared text of my commencement address to the New Saint Andrews College class of 2021 from last Thursday. I think there will be a video posted to YouTube at some point, and I’ll post it when it is available. In the meantime, you’ll have to suffer with my prepared text, which is not exactly as it was delivered. True to form, I improvised a bit and added several things, left out a few things, and tried to have (and give) a good time.
President Merkle, trustees, parents and guests, and especially the class of 2021: You do me an extraordinary honor with the invitation to address you today.
Preparing commencement remarks for New St. Andrews College presents a formidable challenge for a simple reason: New St. Andrews is one of the very rare colleges today that actually knows its purpose, and how to pursue that purpose. How refreshing to find such a place! As such, a guest trying to sum up or extend this purpose is superfluous. One of my favorite books is Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. I had no idea I’d someday be re-enacting the theme of the book, and yet, here I am.
My scientific conclusion is that 98 percent of all college commencement addresses are banal, idiotic, cliché-ridden, and insulting to the intelligence. On the other hand, most colleges today are banal, idiotic, cliché-ridden, and insulting to the intelligence. Back when the Cold War with the Soviet Union was running at high tide (which was during my lifetime and the lifetime of your parents here today), the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked that anyone who won the Lenin Prize, deserved it. And so, without mentioning any particular appalling celebrity commencement speakers, I’ll just say that those other colleges deserve them. New St. Andrews deserves something better.
That may sound at first hearing to be a startling or grandiose proposition, but the plain fact is that the “modern” university—mirroring our larger culture—no longer knows its purpose with any clarity or confidence, or, at the very least, today’s institutions of higher education have added new and contradictory purposes that make them incoherent, listless, and in some cases dangerous. I suspect many graduates today, along with the wider college community here, know this to one degree or another.
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