HUMPHRIES: The all-purpose non-PC commencement address

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This year brought a number of stories about commencement speakers being bullied away from college campuses by protest groups who, it appears, just don’t want the truth to be heard. As a public service, I would like to present an all-purpose commencement speech to be used by all who want to hear the truth and know a little about life’s important lessons.

Students, faculty, parents, whiners, moochers and those who are only interested in themselves and their own opinions, let me give it to you straight: The adult world is not much interested in your wants, desires, demands, or what you think the world owes you, nor should it. To succeed in life, focus on what you have to offer, not what you think you’re “entitled” to.

Too many people think they’re “entitled” to lots of money, a big house, a car, power. You are not owed anything except Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. More disconcerting are the people who believe they are “entitled” to protection from speech with which they disagree. That makes for a very unpleasant society, dominated by whoever can scream “shut up” the loudest. It’s a mistake to think most of the great arguments can ever be “won” decisively. You don’t win by forcing others to agree with you, or terrorizing them into keeping their mouths shut. You can try that with your employer, but it won’t turn out as well as you might hope.

Ideas do not emerge from cocoons of ignorance as beautiful butterflies. The truth is that ideas benefit from competition and cooperation. Good ideas can take a beating and emerge stronger than ever. And strong ideas don’t need to be forced down everyone’s throat by angry mobs.

The best meetings are those where everybody is able to throw out ideas no matter how good or bad. You will be amazed what kind of creativity can happen when there is no fear of ridicule or “group think.”

Persuasion can get pretty lively, but it’s ultimately constructive. Compulsion is destructive. It makes the world smaller and dimmer. It makes people afraid to try new things, or think outside the box.

It’s important to remember good manners and a gracious spirit are signs of strength and confidence. When you’re rich in ideas, a good man or woman is generous to different points of view. Only the insecure close their minds, slam their doors, and stuff their ears.

The world has become too complacent and far too ready to embrace “group think” or to “borrow” the ideas of others. Think for yourself. Create new thoughts, new ideas. Don’t be afraid of being a leader. Don’t be so terrified of making mistakes. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many laws are passed, the world will never be a perfect place, and maybe that’s a good thing. Walt Disney once said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me … You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

The past wasn’t as simple as you might like to think it was. History, including recent history, is filled with people who were both right and wrong. Create great things and not such great things. Make historic mistakes, but always take responsibility for your errors. Never pass the blame on to others; it’s weak, wrong, and you can’t grow from the experience.

The future is going to be very complicated, too. I ask you, who has a better chance of finding good solutions to complicated problems — millions of people testing out their own ideas, challenging each other, and cooperating for the betterment of themselves and mankind, or a handful of sell-out junk scientists and politicians backed up by angry mobs looking for free money and cheap votes?

You’re better off surrounding yourself with people who want you to step up and contribute your best, not people who tell you what you deserve. You can learn a lot by listening to those who disagree, even if they don’t convince you of anything, because they can help you understand your thoughts and how your belief system came together. That’s the kind of exercise a vigorous mind should relish.

To be a great employee, business owner, manager, politician, spouse, parent or an incredible all-around human being, remember one golden rule, always under-promise and over-deliver.

A good and positive attitude is everything! The old saying attributed to the writings of Thomas Jefferson — “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it” — is one of life’s great truths and a mantra that should be adopted by all.

Never stop learning, because an autodidactic is fantastic. Read the Holy Bible or “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, or “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, or works by other great minds, continue your learning and growth. A shallow person believes he has learned it all.

Welcome to the real world. I wish you good luck, great joy, and a good work ethic. Remember, nothing is ever really over, nobody wins or loses forever, and if you’re lucky, everyone wants a piece of you.

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