Another feature is the "elder statesman" speech. Often, though not always, delivered by some political figure of stature, its content is strictly dictated by an unspoken but pervasive formula. It begins with a word or two of background, to the effect of, "We live in a rapidly changing, globalized world." There is certainly some truth to this, and the students feel a twinge of pleasurable recognition of this idea so often repeated by the media, political figures, and in other fora of public opinion. This is quickly followed by what we might call the education-as-international-competition trope: "And America needs well educated citizens to compete with the rest of the world." One might even get the impression that this is all America needs education for, and, were it not for this Hobbesean international arena, we would much rather be doing something else. The point is usually driven home with a tricolon: "We must out-research, out-develop, and out-work the rest of the world."
|"We're ready to crush the world!"|
It does not seem difficult to imagine a different message that could be sent at commencement -- a different portrait, one of America in need of educated citizens to help it cooperate with and understand the rest of the world for the sake of common goals, like peace and justice. Citizens to help us live within our environmental means in a way that leads to thrift, abundance and a just distribution of resources. Then we could truly "begin."