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The Best & Worst Commencement Addresses of the Year

Posted on Tuesday, June 1, 2021
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by AMAC Newsline
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67 Comments
commencement

Another school year has come to a close at colleges and universities across the country, but before the class of 2021 turned the tassel to begin their journey as new graduates, they were given some sage – and in some cases, pretty strange – advice by leading politicians, academics, diplomats, and captains of industry. You may have missed most of this year’s most notable commencement addresses, so AMAC Newsline has compiled the highlights–and the lowlights–of this year’s speeches.

“The Biggest Risk Of All Is That We Stop Taking Risks At All”

Former Republican Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels and current President of Purdue University gave perhaps the best commencement address of the season. Daniels discussed how, during the past year, America had witnessed not only a public health pandemic but also a pandemic of fear that had paralyzed America’s leaders and caused them to flinch in the face of making difficult decisions. Daniels challenged his Boilermakers to have “the courage to act on the conclusions you reach.” Here are some of the best parts of the speech:

“The risk of failure, of a hit to one’s reputation, or just that the gains don’t outweigh the costs, all these can deter or even paralyze a person out of fulfilling the responsibility someone has entrusted to them.”

“This last year, many of your elders failed this fundamental test of leadership. They let their understandable human fear of uncertainty overcome their duty to balance all the interests they were responsible for. They hid behind the advice of experts in one field but ignored the warnings of experts in other realms that they might do harm beyond the good they hoped to accomplish. Sometimes they let what might be termed the mad pursuit of zero, in this case, zero risks of anyone contracting the virus, block out other competing concerns, like the protection of mental health, the educational needs of small children, or the survival of small businesses. Pursuing one goal to the utter exclusion of all others is not to make a choice but to run from it. It’s not leadership; it’s abdication.”

“Maybe the great historian Jacques Barzun summed it up best: ‘The last degree of caution is cowardice.’ Certainty is an illusion. Perfect safety is a mirage. Zero is always unattainable, except in the case of absolute zero where, as you remember, all motion and life itself stop.”

“You are leaving here ready for leadership… All you’ll need is the courage to act on the conclusions you reach. Now take that readiness into a fearful, timid world crying for direction and boldness, where the biggest risk of all is that we stop taking risks at all.”

“Your Most Important Titles Will Be Wife, Husband, Mother, Father, Follower Of Christ.”

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave an inspirational commencement address to students at Regent University in Virginia. What set Pompeo’s speech apart from others was the fact that it challenged the class of 2021 to put faith and family at the center of their career rather than just purely professional accolades and material accomplishments.

Here are some of the best moments from Pompeo’s remarks:

“You should all know that life will offer you lots of ways to use your talents, your education, industry, your intelligence to achieve personal success, how you define it, in your chosen life, in your chosen professions. And it will also offer you chances to know a far more lasting happiness by serving someone far greater than yourself or your self-interest – your God.”

“No one here today knows where members of this class will end up. They’ll be future scientists. They’ll be business people. They’ll be teachers, members of Congress. Who knows, maybe the 79th Secretary of State or even a President. But to be honest, your most important titles will be wife, husband, mother, father, follower of Christ.”

“Every one of you will need the strength of Christ. You will need the strength of Christ in you to achieve your goals and to live in a country where you can exercise your right to worship your God as you see fit.”

“Our country must remember that no one can enjoy the pursuit of happiness if you cannot own the fruits of your own labor. And no society can retain its legitimacy or a virtuous character without religious freedom.”

“We must cherish our freedom, particularly this freedom to practice our faith, not just for the opportunities it provides to each of us, but for the goodness of living a life in accordance with God without oppression that it makes possible. And when government oppresses that freedom, we must stand up. Each of you have that responsibility. It is a big burden.”

“Humanity is impatient for your service. Your God demands it. Always remember Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”

“Our Goal Is An Independent Mind, In The Service Of Truth Instead Of Fads Or Groupthink.”

Joe Biden was originally supposed to speak at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. But Biden snubbed the Catholic school, apparently choosing to stay away from Notre Dame after more than 4,400 Notre Dame students and alumni wrote a letter noting that Mr. Biden had embraced “the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history.”

Instead, Jimmy Dunne gave the commencement address to Notre Dame graduates. Dunne works for an investment company that was once located on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center. Many of the company’s employees died on 9/11, but Dunne has worked tirelessly to help the sons and daughters of his former coworkers get the scholarships they need to attend colleges across the country, including Notre Dame.

In an emotional speech, Dunne showed the moral courage to say the things that every college student needs to hear, but no one would ever hear in a commencement address delivered by Mr. Biden. Dunne asserted that the real purpose of education is to teach about the “permanent things” to build “character, not just knowledge, moral aspiration, not just ambition.” Dunne appeared to call out cancel culture and woke college campuses as “fads” and “groupthink.” Dunne concluded his remarks with a memorable line calling out Joe Biden for not showing up. He said: “It almost makes me feel bad for the President, because he missed this wonderful sight of a graduating class as promising as any in America.”

Here are some of the most powerful parts of Dunne’s riveting address:

“The mark of a great university is that you learn more than they’re teaching. Here, we talk about forming ‘the whole person,’ and it’s a true commitment grounded in real things, permanent things. The aim is character, not just knowledge, moral aspiration, not just ambition. You’ve all got degrees in different disciplines, but you have a single major in common – and that is leadership. The fashions that wash over higher education don’t get far at this university. Our goal is an independent mind, in the service of truth instead of fads or groupthink. The great problems and moral obligations of life are not suddenly discovered here. Those obligations have been the core purpose from the start.”

“Father Jenkins touched upon what happened at our company on 9/11. We faced a passage through the dark side of life – the kind no one is ever ready for. So many colleagues, gone all at once. Wives, husbands, children left to suffer loss and find a way to keep going. Normally I would have gone straight to my two partners I knew best, but we had lost them, too. The question was, How do we recover? . . . and more than that, what can we do for those families left behind? At such moments, there isn’t time to reflect and figure out what you believe. All you have is your foundation, and you’re about to find out if it’s a good one. If you can get through, it’s going to be on the strength of what you have already. How we conducted ourselves would define who we were and what we stood for. If we were not honorable, then we stood for nothing. So, our attitude was, we are going to make brave decisions. If we fail, we fail. If we lose everything, we lose everything. But that’s what we’re going to do – especially for the children of our friends. They had lost a person in their lives who would fight for them. So, from now on, we would fight for them. We would keep faith with those families.”

“Whenever you hold yourself to the highest standards instead of just the latest ones, doing the right thing instead of just the easy thing, you’ll be putting into practice what you learned here. And as you grow in faith – aware of life’s greater purposes, and of whose purposes they are – you will see that, too, as the gift of Notre Dame.”

“What a joy it is to see the work of four years completed, in the form of such impressive, outward-looking, talented, true-hearted men and women. It almost makes me feel bad for the president because he missed this wonderful sight of a graduating class as promising as any in America.”

“You are a quiet — you’re a really dull class. I mean, come on, man. Is the sun getting to you?”

Joe Biden gave what was easily the worst commencement address of any U.S. President in recent memory to cadets at the Coast Guard Academy. Biden started the speech by asserting: “[W]e’re going to speak for about four hours” and “I thought I was hot in a blue suit.” Biden mispronounced the name of a distinguished cadet, butchered a reference to a cadet handbook, and quoted a Chinese dictator.

On two occasions, Biden asked that the cadets clap for him. Early on, Biden tried to make a joke by chiding cadets for spending “a little too much time at the Slice,” a local pizza restaurant. But Biden did not get the laughs and applause he wanted, so he instructed the cadets: “You can clap.  Come on, man.” On another occasion, Biden again demanded applause: “Congratulations the Bravo Company, by the way, on your victory. You can clap. It’s okay. Even if you’re lost, you gotta clap.”

The worst moment of the speech, though, occurred when Biden tried to tell a joke about the Navy that fell totally flat. Instead of just moving on, the man who is supposed to be America’s commander in chief directly insulted the very people who have pledged to fight and, if necessary, die to keep America safe. The actual White House transcript records Biden as saying: “You are a quiet — you’re a really dull class. I mean, come on, man. Is the sun getting to you? I would think you’d have an opportunity when I say that about the Navy to clap, but — but being here together.”

This was an embarrassing and awkward moment not only for Mr. Biden but for everyone at the ceremony.

“Just Ask Any Marine Today, Would She Rather Carry 20 Pounds Of Batteries Or A Rolled Up Solar Panel, and I am positive she will tell you a solar panel, and so would he.”

Kamala Harris followed up Biden’s brutally bad commencement speech with a woke dud of her own. Harris, addressing graduates at the Naval Academy, showed where the Biden administration’s priorities truly are in terms of national defense when she asserted that “climate change” is a “very real threat to our national security.” Harris never once mentioned China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, or any of the other “real threats” to American national security during the course of her remarks. On the topic of climate change, Harris’s comments were laughable but not in the way Harris intended them to be. She told the Navy midshipmen and Marines:

“You are ocean engineers who will help navigate ships through thinning ice. You are mechanical engineers who will help reinforce sinking bases. You are electrical engineers who will soon help convert solar and wind energy into power, convert solar and wind energy into combat power. And just ask any Marine today, would she rather carry 20 pounds of batteries or a rolled up solar panel, and I am positive she will tell you a solar panel, and so would he.”

But, solar panels store energy in batteries. The Marine, regardless of gender, will still have to carry a battery along with the solar panel. That technicality aside, these bizarre remarks were delivered by Harris as part of a commencement address on Memorial Day weekend. The sacrifices that Navy midshipmen have made for this country throughout history were never mentioned during the course of the remarks. Rather, Harris sounded like she had shown up to give a speech at the National Resources Defense Council instead of the U.S. Naval Academy. She used her time to issue veiled threats like, “One country’s carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the whole earth.” The likelihood that Navy graduates can actually learn something from such statements that will help them as they defend this country is doubtful at best, which is why this commencement address earns last place for the 2021 season.

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Ed Bowers
Ed Bowers
2 years ago

I’ve tried in my lifetime of now just over 85 years to judge a person on what they do, what they actually accomplish rather on what they say. Why? Because talk is cheap and action is fact. As an “administration” so far the Biden/Harris falls woefully short of any real accomplishments. They have already cost the U.S. thousands of jobs and inflation is not so slowly raising it’s ugly head. The weak stream media tried to nail anything President Trump did. But have failed to even broach any of the B/H fiascos, i.e. the southern border, minors being deserted by parents or coyotes and a few others. We are in worse shape now after just over 4 months of B/H than we ever were under Trump. It’s a very sad story that will continue at least until November 2022!

D.P.
D.P.
2 years ago

Where can I get the transcript of the Harris address? As a Navy vet, I am interested
in reading the whole thing….as hard as that may be to do.

Elena Tellez
Elena Tellez
2 years ago

Our so-called president (Ha!) & VP (Ha Ha!) are hollow excuses for Americans… and perhaps the graduating classes should have considered walking out on them or ‘boo-ing’ them. I had a drunken northern state Dem Mayor give a commencement speech in NYC for my MBA… and when he repeated the same empty rhetoric for the 3rd time… several of us, including my mother and myself, got up and walked out. What a waste of time.

Suzanne B
Suzanne B
2 years ago

Yes, they were interesting but so depressing that we have the worst President & Vice President in the history of our nation. Not only can they not give a decent speech, but their policies are destroying our country. On the other hand Mike Pompeo’s speech was wonderful! Encouraging and shining the light on what is truly important in an individual’s life, which in turn will make the country a better place in which to live again. Praying the Lord will forgive us our sins and remove the current administration from office.

Jesse F Tiede
Jesse F Tiede
2 years ago

I find it extremely ironic that two of the most Anti-American, Anti- Military politicians in History are the ones to deliver the Commencement speeches to two of Americas premier universities, our Military Academies at Annapolis and Groton, CT…

Phil Hammersley
Phil Hammersley
2 years ago

Glad Notre Dame got someone who wasn’t a Marxist like The Senile One. Mitch did a reasonable job considering that he’s a RINO. Senile Joe evidently couldn’t see his cue cards because he butchered the joke that Ronaldus Magnus said correctly years ago and was cheered. Of course the cadets know that Senile Joe doesn’t give a **** about them.

Tish
Tish
2 years ago

The whole dimrat regime is an embarrassment, but jo and the ho make it ridiculously obvious.

Kevin S
Kevin S
2 years ago

Could there be a more stark contrast between them? All are supposed to be learned and experienced with wisdom to share. You can’t make this stuff up – nobody’d believe you.

Ruth Kidney
Ruth Kidney
2 years ago

I had no idea Jimmy Dunne and his company had committed themselves to helping those families who lost a parent/spouse at the World Trade Center on 9/11. His actions certainly give a real example for those graduates!

D.P.
D.P.
2 years ago

I have trouble understanding why these military academies agreed to have the likes of Biden and Harris even speak…..Historically, the President/V.P. did this and perhaps that the standard, and of course the military seniors are beholding to the administration per se…..so I guess they must. The cadets could not walk out……but you can rest assured, had I been one of them…..all they would have gotten from me is standing or sitting at attention…..no applause please. It’s not laudable. No laughing…..it’s not funny. No Boos….that’s disrespectful of their high office. Just “mum.” the message would have been quite clear……audible silence. Side note……who was/wasn’t wearing a mask?

Karole
Karole
2 years ago

I would have been really upset if my graduate had his or her commencement address given by Joe Biden. Thank you Jimmie Dunne for your inspirational words. I feel sorry for the Naval Academy grads who had to put up with Kamala.

Ed J
Ed J
2 years ago

Just another example of how the Joe and the Ho Clown Show is totally out of touch with the American people with their continued rabid and misguided pursuit of their delusional and dystopian ideologies. Their fixation on their distorted views of reality is obsessive compulsive behavior at best and some more profound pathological mental disorder(s) at worst. Neither condition bodes well for America and Americans. Yes, Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore, but in some Never-Never-Land that is truly alien to the nation that our Founding Fathers established which has become a beacon to the world for freedom, hope and opportunity.

Joyce Gibson
Joyce Gibson
2 years ago

Just goes to show you that the President and Vice President do not understand how the United States of America actually functions. They have no respect for our armed forces and what they done in the past and todays Academy graduates who may be called to bravely fight for our Country.

JohnH
JohnH
2 years ago

Very disappointed that Kamala Harris feels that climate change is the biggest threat to our security. She needs to look around the world with an open mind.

Chuck
Chuck
2 years ago

Sad, that liars and cheats get to address the service academies graduates. One of the pillars these young people get impressed upon them is moral ness of purpose and character. Biden and Harris are sorely lacking in these departments. Their addresses showed these deficiencies.

John fallon
John fallon
2 years ago

chinajoe and cameltoe are examples of the SWAMP MENTALITY, ignore truth, do anything to enhance your personal wealth and power, sell your soul to the devil, help our enemies to destroy AMERICA, invest in enemy energy companies, destroy AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE FOR PERSONAL GAIN, lie, steal, cheat to “win” elections, disrespect the people that made ALL THE SACRIFICES NECESSARY TO ENSURE THIER FREEDOM, FAIL TO HONOR THIER OATHS OF OFFICE TO DEFEND AND PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION AND THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE THEY WERE ELECTED TO SERVE!! PROVE VOTER FRAUD, PUT PEOPLE IN OFFICE WE ACTUALLY VOTED FOR, PUT TRUMP IN THE WHITEHOUSE WERE HE BELONGS AND LET HIM DRAIN THE SWAMP!!!

Denise
Denise
2 years ago

Biden & Harris are an embarrassment to this nation! America was the greatest nation on earth, now we are a laughing stock.

Susabella
Susabella
2 years ago

The graduates were smart enough to not applaud the idiot speaking to them. Thank goodness they learned well at the Academy. There truly is hope for the future of America.

David Spade
David Spade
2 years ago

What a sharp contrast in the commencement speeches can be seen in this article! The forward looking people who see hope and progress for the graduates, versus the administration of O’Biden who simply speak Marxist non-sense. Leadership versus political morass. Encouragement versus fear. How some of these graduates sat there and listened to O’Biden and Harris is beyond me. They probably should have exited as a protest to the emptiness they were selling.

Karen
Karen
2 years ago

Bless you Mike Pompeo!!!!!!

Max
Max
2 years ago

It is sad from my perspective as a naval officer that the Commander-in-Chief and his sidekick have no respect for the military services. It is obvious that their speech writers also haven’t a clue about reality. Time for IMPEACHMENT!

HocasPocas
HocasPocas
2 years ago

Shows the IQ of the last two commencement speakers in your article. About a two

BAE
BAE
2 years ago

Kamala Harris the worse; so bad. So she is an idiot, too. But we knew. Might be president; what is going on; can it get crazier?

David P Nelson
David P Nelson
2 years ago

The Leadership in our Country is utterly pathetic. We must reverse course in order to survive!

Mark
Mark
2 years ago

It must have been torture for these graduates to have to sit and listen to the BS spewed by the moronic fake President and Vice President. What a way to ruin what should have been one of the most memorable days in their lives.

Stephen Lykins
Stephen Lykins
2 years ago

The speech I most remember at a commencement was the valedictorian speech given at a high school graduation ENTIRELY in Wookie. Better speech than by ANY politician!

wolfman
wolfman
2 years ago

What can you really say to the brainwashed upon the completion of their wash? Everything you know is wrong would be the most fitting commencement speech to the class of 2021.

Bill on the Hill
Bill on the Hill
2 years ago

Regrettably, I caught this dimwits speech to the graduating class at the US Naval Academy & I was squirming in my seat listening to it… I witnessed Biden’s too, unfortunately…
Oh how I miss Secretary Mike Pompeo’s elegant style of communicating with others…
We as a nation need people of his stature in place right this moment in order to maintain our collective sanity moving forward…
The ( 2 ) idiots currently sitting in the big chair in the WH are as genuine as any other Marxist dictators in the world that achieved their results through the ” Art of Cheating ” an election…
One must truly admire those 8′ foot spear tipped fences that now permanently surround the Capitol in Washington, DC. It is a sight for all to see for sure…:~(
Bill on the hill… :~)

Beverly Necessary
Beverly Necessary
2 years ago

I just hope the students who heard dims’ speeches (hadn’t been to brain washed) were smart enough to understand the hypocrisy.

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