commencement addresses

The always insightful Sharon Astyk was recently asked what she would say given the opportunity to speak to a class of new college graduates.  Her entire reply can be found here.  Here’s an excerpt I particularly liked:

For example, the odds are good that your education has been for a globalized and parochial world, rather than a local and international one.  By this I mean that you have been taught that America is unique and special – even if you have received critiques of this worldview, you have most likely been taught that it is specially invulnerable to hardship.  You have also been taught that your work will enable the cause of a globalization that has already failed, a globalization that has also done enormous harm.  Unfortunately, unless you are lucky, you have also never been taught to understand the world order without America fully at its center.  You are not prepared for the international realities of energy depletion and climate change, and the language of the last two decades, in which you have been immersed, has placed America in the position of the sun, with the rest of the nations revolving around it.  While some of you have managed to see more than this, many have not, and thus the implications of our global predicament are likely to be startling and painful.

You have been unfitted for a local future.  The assumption has been from the moment of your birth that you will grow up and go away – away from your parents, away from your hometown, towards those globalized jobs, towards affluence.  Sense of place, family ties – these are all assumed to be transient, and a good future is one in which you do not return home in any sense.  Growing up, you have been taught, is about going out and away, about abjuring family ties, rather than supporting them.  To go home, to support ties is to be perpetually adolescent, rather than mature, to be the butt of jokes about still living in your parents’ basement.   Contempt for the local and familial has pushed you to disregard the real possibilities of returning to places where you in some measure belong, and where there are people you can throw your lot in with.  At a minimum, you should decline to be ashamed to do so.

On the whole I thought it was a really interesting approach to whole genre of commencement address and to the large issues the United States faces in the wake of the economic collapse.


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