In these times of GOP doldrums, when we do see someone who bucks the conventional wisdom and easy path, it is so uncommon that it usually confounds us.
Case in point: The Butler University commencement speech of 2009. A nice, safe, warm and fuzzy send off for the graduating class, right? Wrong. More like a 2x4 to the collective face of baby boomers who, quite frankly, deserve it.
Read some excerpts from this incredible speech below.
“As a 10-year-old, new to Indiana, Butler basketball was about the only entertainment our family was able, or at least willing, to purchase for me. On countless frigid evenings, someone's dad would drop us off in the Fieldhouse parking lot, and someone else's dad would pick us up, after watching the Bulldogs either beat or scare the pants off some big-name larger school. I might stumble over my own college's fight song, but I still know yours by heart.”
Hey, it is Indiana so of course it is going to open with basketball. He went to Princeton so who can blame him for loving Butler athletics.
"Even though the whole notion of a "generation" must be discounted as the loosest of concepts, within limits it is possible to spot the defining characteristics of an age and the human beings who create it. Along with most of your faculty and parents, I belong to the most discussed, debated and analyzed generation of all time, the so-called Baby Boomers. By the accepted definition, the youngest of us is now forty-five, so the record is pretty much on the books, and the time for verdicts can begin. Which leads me to congratulate you in advance. As a generation, you are off to an excellent start. You have taken the first savvy step on the road to distinction, which is to follow a weak act. I wish I could claim otherwise, but we Baby Boomers are likely to be remembered by history for our numbers, and little else, at least little else that is admirable."
"All our lives, it's been all about us. We were the "Me Generation." We wore t-shirts that said "If it feels good, do it." The year of my high school commencement, a hit song featured the immortal lyric "Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today." As a group, we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish. Our current Baby Boomer President has written two eloquent, erudite books, both about..himself. As a generation, we did tend to live for today. We have spent more and saved less than any previous Americans. Year after year, regardless which party we picked to lead the country, we ran up deficits that have multiplied the debt you and your children will be paying off your entire working lives. Far more burdensome to you mathematically, we voted ourselves increasing levels of Social Security pensions and Medicare health care benefits, but never summoned the political maturity to put those programs on anything resembling a sound actuarial footing."
At this point the squirming in seats of the parents section must have been almost audible.
"Our irresponsibility went well beyond the financial realm. Our parents formed families and kept them intact even through difficulty "for the sake of the kids." To us, parental happiness came first; we often divorced at the first unpleasantness, and increasingly just gave birth to children without the nuisance of marriage. "Commitment" cramps one's style, don't you know. Total bummer."
Let no uncomfortable topic go untouched.
"As time runs out on our leadership years, it's clear there is no chance that anyone will ever refer to us, as histories now do our parents, as "The Greatest Generation." There is no disgrace in this; very few generations are thought of as "great." And history is not linear. Many generations fail miserably at the challenges they confront, and their societies take steps backwards as a consequence. Consider Japan before World War II, or Americans in the decades before the Civil War. And yet in both those instances and many others, the people who followed did great things, not only redeemed all the failings but built better, fairer societies than their nations had seen before. In fact, true greatness can only be revealed by large challenges, by tough circumstances. And your opportunities for greatness will be large."
Your generation can be great…especially compared to your parents.
And please, just to revise another current practice, be judgmental. Whatever they claim, people always are, anyway - consider the healthy stigmatization of racist comments or sexist attitudes or cigarette smoking. It's just a matter of which behaviors enough of us agree to judge as unacceptable. As free people, we agree to tolerate any conduct that does no harm to others, but we should not be coerced into condoning it. Selfishness and irresponsibility in business, personal finances, or in family life, are deserving of your disapproval. Go ahead and stigmatize them. Too much such behavior will hurt our nation and the future for you and the families you will create. Honesty about shortcomings is not handwringing. Again, this is a blessed land, in every way. Amidst the worst recession in a long time, we still are wealthier than any society in history. We are safer, from injury, disease, and each other than any humans that ever lived. Best of all, we are free. The problems you now inherit are not those of 1776, or 1861, or 1929, or 1941. But they are large enough, and left unattended, they will devour the wealth and, ultimately, the freedom and safety we cherish, at least in our thankful moments. So you have a chance to be a great Butler class, part of a great generation."
Take that political correctness.
In a brief, intelligent, yet straightforward head shot, the Governor has done what almost no one in Government, media or certainly academia has had the stones to do…lay guilt where it belongs.
A lot of my friends keep asking me if this guy is going to run for president and I just say, “he is doing too good a job as Governor for us to spare him.” But of course doing your current job really really well is a great way to get promoted.
You can read the entire speech here.