"Congratulations. Now prove that you've earned it."

This past Memorial Day weekend was an occasion for both sombre reflection and great joy for many families across the country- including my own. It was a time to reflect upon those who paid the ultimate price for the rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy without a second thought, to be sure.

It was also Commencement Day for several large and small universities across the country.

One of those was the college where my sister has finally graduated. Naturally, the entire family was there to celebrate her achievements.

The ceremony took place on a truly beautiful day- hot, sunny, virtually cloudless, underneath brilliant blue skies. Of the ceremony itself, I suppose there's not much that can be said about what took place- there was a lot of speechifying, almost all of it quite boring, there was a lot of cheering and shouting, and there was quite a lot of sound and colour from the graduates themselves. There were a few trite speeches; the keynote speaker in particular made a lot of fluffy, feel-good sentimental points that I'm sure puffed up the already overblown heads of the recent graduates even more.

In my opinion, the ceremony was actually notable for what it didn't have.

Not once in the entire commencement address by the President of the college was the name of the Lord mentioned. In fact, the proceedings opened with a "prayer" that started with something like, "to all people present here, both theists and non-theists, we ask for a moment of reflection and thanks in honour of our graduates today".

Look, I get it, atheists and Muslims would have been offended. However, given that these are the same people who end up doing the most harm to the rest of us in the name of their beliefs (or in the case of atheists, un-beliefs), who cares what they think?

Hardly a moment was spent talking about the sacrifices that were made by free men to preserve and protect this nation, given that it was Memorial Day, other than a couple of perfunctory lines from the President and a few more from the keynote speaker- a Secretary of something-or-other within the Department of Labour within the current government (which has to be some kind of massive in-joke, given the current POTUS's lackadaisical attitude toward "work"). To me, this was particularly galling, given that the college itself has an actual war memorial right there in the main square commemorating those alumni from the college who made the ultimate sacrifices for their people and way of life.

Yeah, I know, liberals hate being reminded of the fact that freedom isn't free, that it costs blood and sacrifice and agony and sweat and devotion. But is it really too much to ask that we thank those who make such sacrifices even so?

Indeed, looking back at the event, I am reminded of a rather good article published a while back in the Chronicle of Higher Education that exhibited a speech that the author wished had been given to new entrants into Stanford University at the freshman convocation. Since I'm rather more interested in fixing things and proposing solutions than complaining about problems, here is the speech that I wish someone had given at that commencement:
Mr. President, esteemed faculty members, parents, family members, and of course, the Class of 2014 of XYZ College, and with deepest gratitude to and reverence for the Almighty and His Son, the King of Kings, the Saviour Christ, thank you and welcome.
On this beautiful Memorial Day, we are gathered here to celebrate the achievements of our latest graduating class. Before we do, however, let us take time to remember and honour those who fought and died to preserve our freedoms, our way of life; let us give thanks to those who paid the ultimate price for the things in life that we enjoy so much.
Let us pray. 
{A full minute passes as the speaker bows his head and closes his eyes in reverence, silently reciting the Lord's Prayer. He makes the sign of the Holy Cross, looks back up and smiles.}
We are gathered here, by the grace of Almighty God, to congratulate those who have worked hard and studied hard for the past four, or five, or more, years to achieve something of value and importance to them and those that they love. And for that, congratulations are indeed rightly in order.
However, I am here to convey a message that will, at least today, sound harsh and discordant to your ears. You came here expecting praise and platitudes. I am here to deliver neither of these things. 
I am here to tell you that, as much as you have achieved thus far in your lives, none of it matters. Not yet.
You've proven that you have what it takes to succeed in an academic environment. You've proven that you know how to solve specific problems, how to understand certain phenomena, how to write (I hope), and how to argue and debate. You have stayed up late into the night, discussing the world's problems and coming up with answers to them. You have, in your own minds, figured out how everything works. You have all of the answers. You have great ideas and great hopes. 
These are all valuable things, no question about that. But it's not enough.
All of you have dreams and ambitions. All of you are young; most of you are probably highly idealistic. (Don't worry, the world will cure you of that soon enough.) Some of you- I would wager the majority of you- want to change the world for the better, based on whatever moral standards your parents raised you with. 
You have been told for the last 4 years- and if you went through the American school system, for far longer than that- that you are special, wonderful, and accomplished beyond measure. I'm sure your self-esteem today is at sky-high levels.
That is all well and good. But the real world does not care about your self-esteem. It cares only about what you can deliver. There is no sympathy out there in the real world for your starry-eyed idealism. All that matters is what you can do for other people- and, eventually, what other people can do for you. Learning how to deal with, and eventually master, these demands will be the greatest challenge for you in the next few years.
It is a challenge that many of you will fail
Or at least, you would fail if it were not for someone like me, or your parents, or your siblings, or perhaps even your pastors and teachers and friends, telling you that you're not good enough, that you need to improve in certain areas, and that you need to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
Never stop seeking to improve yourself. Never stop trying to better your life, to beautify your life. Never stop trying to see through the lies that others tell you. Never stop seeking the truth. This world is deeply unfair, very tough, quite unforgiving. It rewards only persistence and hard work. There are no shortcuts to getting what you want. You have to be willing to endure great pain and suffering in order to reap great rewards and joys.
For the reality is that you have been lied to. You have been told that the world works in certain ways that make sense when viewed through the narrow, focused lens of the academic bubble, but which completely fall apart when you actually enter working life. 
You have undoubtedly been told that the greatest thing you can do is to enter public service, or volunteer for an NGO, or teach English in some faraway country to build bridges between worlds, or pursue an academic career; indeed, you have probably heard the very concept of profit sneered at and derided throughout your time here. You have certainly heard your teachers and professors and fellow students expressing disdain for wealth and money.
I am here to tell you that the single greatest thing you could do in this world, short of truly earning your right to the sovereign franchise through difficult and painful, but voluntary and honourable, military service, is to build a business that fundamentally transforms people's lives through delivering better products and services at lower costs and higher quality than any competitor- and makes you very wealthy in the process. In doing so, you will have accomplished far more than any government bureaucrat or aid worker, because unlike them, you are not a parasite. And make no mistake- such people are parasites. They could not survive if it were not for the hard work, the ingenuity, the ideas of those who build and create. Without such people, civilisation collapses and all of the good things and creature comforts of our world cease to exist. 
If you start your own business, and succeed in building it into a real enterprise, you'll provide jobs and opportunities for other people. You'll have a real, quantifiable impact on entire communities. You'll make people's lives better simply by virtue of producing something of real value. Indeed you'll become the kind of person that your alma mater wants to seek donations from. One little secret that no one at this place likely ever told you is that it could not survive without those donations, from wealthy and productive people.
No doubt you have been told, repeatedly, that the government is your friend and ally, and that it is right and just that the government do for the people what the people supposedly cannot do for themselves.
I am here to tell you that this is nonsense. The government is your enemy, and will always be so. It has no power over you except that which you give it, and you have already given it far too much. And you certainly have no right to wield power and authority over the lives of others simply by virtue of being born, since you have done nothing whatsoever to earn that power, that authority. You must prove to all of us that you are a worthy and responsible adult, capable of both wielding great power and shouldering great responsibility. If you cannot prove these things, you are not worthy of the praise you have received today and in the past.
No doubt you have been told many lies about how to eat, how to exercise, how to be successful with the opposite sex. No doubt the men here, in particular, have had to sit through many dreary lectures about how their masculinity is the enemy of civilisation and how your strengths and masculine desires are things to be ashamed of, things to be mocked and despised.
I am here to tell you that masculinity is what builds civilisation. I am here to tell you that feminism is EVIL, an edifice of falsehoods that will someday be shattered and destroyed by the eternal truths of this world. I am here to tell you that without the vitality of masculinity and the temperance of femininity, civilisation dies, and barbarism lives.
I am here to tell you that you will not amount to anything in this world until you confront these lies- and at that moment, your choice of whether to follow the lies you have been told, or to follow the path of Truth, will forever define your true worth. 
I am here to tell you that if you are a man, the greatest thing you can do for yourself and your fellows is to be a real man- by being strong, virtuous, honourable, courageous, trustworthy, and above all, masculine. If you find a good woman, honour her, love her, respect her, but never be subservient to her. Be the leader that your masculinity is telling you to be, and the rest will take care of itself.
I am here to tell you that if you are a woman, the single greatest achievement in your life will NOT be your career or your material possessions; it will be your husband and especially your children. Do not waste your femininity chasing impossible and costly dreams of money and career; conserve it, treat it with the respect and dignity that true femininity deserves, and save it for a worthy man. Be gentle, be kind, be loving, be modest and chaste. In other words, be everything that more than twenty years of pop culture has taught you not to be.
I am here to tell you that each and every one of you has a God-given right to life, earned through the agonising pain of childbirth. Each of you has the absolute right to protect that life, by any means necessary, in the face of aggression and evil. That means, by definition, that each and every one of you has the right to keep and bear arms for the express purpose of protecting yourself and your loved ones- no matter what your professors and your government have to say on the subject.
And because you have that right, it is your responsibility to avoid inflicting harm upon others- especially those least able to defend themselves. I speak, of course, of the unborn, and of the sanctity of life that we should all hold in reverence. The unborn are being murdered in their millions around the world today, yet we sit and do nothing. Do you truly wish to change the world? Then do whatever you can to protect the weak, the helpless, and the innocent- and there are none who are more deserving of such protection than the unborn.
I am here to tell you that you are not alone in this world. Your families are here today to express their love and support. Never forget them, for without family, life has no real meaning, no true joy. Your friends will stay with you for life- but only if you make the effort to build upon those friendships. 
And never, ever forget that there is a higher Power to whom we owe all- a Power of infinite love, mercy, wisdom, compassion, and astonishing good humour, a Power that has limitless strength to conquer all evil. The power of the Lord is not easily understood by merely human minds, but it is real nonetheless, if only you are humble enough to accept it. I myself have been blessed by God in more ways than I can count, and in my darkest times, when I have had nowhere else to turn, the Lord has saved me from myself more times than I care to recall.
As Senator and former Republican candidate for President Barry Goldwater once said to his son, "There is nothing like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then, you have a real start." And as Abraham Lincoln, who started a war that killed more than 600,000 men in an act of brazen disregard for states' rights and self-determination in order to consolidate power to the Federal government, once said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
If a tyrant like that could be humble enough to pray to God for salvation of his soul, are you too good to do the same? 
These are hard things to hear. But you must hear them nonetheless. You will encounter unpleasant truths throughout your lives. You will see severe and jarring incongruities between what you have been taught is true and what is actually true. The way you respond to those situations will define your worth as a person. And it will prove whether or not you truly deserve all of the wonderful things that other people- who love you and cherish you and want only the best for you- have said about you.
So to all of you here today- congratulations and well done. Now prove that you've earned it.
Thank you, may God bless you, and may God forever bless these United States of America. Amen.
A speech like this would, in today's environment, have resulted in the stoning of the speaker rather than the applause of the audience. Yet these are the words that I wish my sister and her friends had heard that day. At least they would have remembered the speech, if nothing else.


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