Commencement 2024


Welcome to Commencement 2024. I’m delighted to be your speaker today because the original, more famous booking dropped out when he realized what you’re like. Some of you, anyway. A recent survey showed that just over half of students disapprove of the pro-Hamas camps and anti-Jewish intimidation on Ivy League campuses like this one. This means that only a minority of you have convinced Americans that all their universities are factories of bigotry. How could this have happened? 

One reason is that the majority of you did nothing other than offer disapproval in a poll. All those years of your teachers telling you to “be an upstander, not a bystander,” and you still blew it. You could, as students at the University of California, Los Angeles, did, have fought back. But you didn’t. As the dead, white, cis, colonialist male Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The bad among you have done the rest. 

A student sits with her cap decorated to read “Free Palestine” while attending the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Minneapolis, Minn. (Angelina Katsanis /Star Tribune via AP)

Some of you will rip up your diplomas onstage today. The rest of you can rip them up later. Your master’s degrees in social work, gender studies, consciousness-raising, cuddle therapy, and English Lit are all worthless, except if you crawl like some kind of dying animal into the academic shrubbery and spend the rest of your life in the subprime educational industry. There, you can become a teacher in the barren field of your expertise and recite the content of your worthless degree to people whose ignorance and sloth remind you of you when you were young. 

Or you could become an enforcer for the diversity, equity, and inclusion mafia. In that scenario, your recent experiments in Jew-baiting will vouch for you in the way that a professor’s reference used to in the days when American universities were serious places. The world used to look to America, especially its rush to the technological and intellectual frontiers, as the future. Now, the world sees you and concludes that America’s time is over. Is this true?  

Pro-Palestinian students chants in protest during UC Berkeley’s commencement ceremony in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

That is not a rhetorical question but a Socratic one, an attempt to establish what you do and do not know. Some of you — again, a minority — want America to be over. Although you believe you are unique and new, you are the pale shadows of old archetypes. Nearly a century ago, another dead, white, cis, colonialist male, the ex-Burma policeman George Orwell, observed that England was “the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality.” 

Those of you who have lately taken down the Stars and Stripes and raised the Palestinian flag will recognize Orwell’s feeling that his left-wing contemporaries would “feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God Save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box.” I blame the adults. Your teachers have failed you, and deliberately. If John “Bluto” Blutarsky were to attend Faber College now, he would emerge much the same four years later. But if you’ve spent most of the last weeks eating Deliveroo in a tent, sniffing out Jews, and making new friends with Islamists, you have both paid attention and learned the wrong lesson. Much of it is lies and silliness, but some of it is, if taken literally, dangerous to yourself and others. 

The professors who taught you have no intention of risking their cozy positions, but they are happy to send you out as “activists.” Again, you are on a well-worn historical track, whether you know it or not. Orwell, writing in the “critical years” of 1941, said that his intellectual contemporaries had for years been “chipping away” at everyone else’s morale and spreading an outlook that was “sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British.” 

Your society is not yet in 1941, but these are still critical years. If the United States continues on its present path, it will fall apart internally and fall over internationally. You are supposed to be its future leaders. Instead, you are chipping away, with an outlook that is squashily pacifist when it comes to denying Jews the right to defend themselves from the worst kind of terrorism, violently pro-Islamist when it comes to killing Jews without consequence, and always, always anti-American. 


Your future is in your hands. So is the future of the rest of us, because we have to live with you. Some of you will become the intellectual equivalent of acid casualties. You will never leave the campus. You will never grow up, only old. Most of you will turn into real adults. The sheer weight of your student loans will compress much of the silliness out of you. But a few of you will keep going after you enter the real world. Again, the familiar path awaits. 

The intelligentsiya of czarist Russia produced anarchist bomb-throwers and Bolshevik tyrants. The ’60s radicals produced the Weathermen. You don’t know it, but your ideology fuses the theatrical tradition of campus leftism, which is now as faded as your grandfather’s denim, with the real thing, Islamism. You have no idea what you are dealing with. Student loans can be forgiven. Terrorism and treason cannot.

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