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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