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William Bowen Gives Best Commencement Speech at Haverford

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 19, 2014 10:01 AM |

Periodically I like to take a break from my standard navigation of our economic landscape to draw attention to more general news or remarks that I believe warrant special recognition.

To that end, I recall the aggressive commentary put forth by Dr. Benjamin Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast (link provides the video of Carson’s “must view” remarks)  in early 2013 when he warned our nation on the dangers of the increasing political correctness that is overtaking our society. If you have not viewed Carson’s remarks, do yourself and your kids a favor and view it with them.

In the footsteps of Carson’s forewarning, not surprisingly we have seen a number of institutions of supposed higher learning allow their commencement speakers to be disinvited by a student body, faculty, and/or outside forces that do not appreciate their views and positions. These institutions include Brandeis, Rutgers, Smith, and Haverford. If this is not the essence of political correctness run amuck, I do not know what is.

Yet hopes springs eternal. 

Haverford replaced its original speaker, Dr. Robert Birgenau of the University of California-Berkeley, with William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University. Leaving little to interpretation, Bowen does all the students — and faculty and administration, as well — at Haverford and every other academic institution a huge public service in stating so succinctly what many a commencement speaker in years past, present, and future have or will overlook.

Bowen speaks from the heart in stating:

“If you expect to agree with commencement speakers on everything, then who will you get to speak? Someone totally boring.”

Does that statement apply to about 95% of commencement speakers each and every year? I would maintain that it applies to most and perhaps all of the commencement speeches I have heard over the years.

Bowen goes a step further, though, in categorizing those students at Haverford who rallied against Birgenau as “immature and arrogant.”

I can imagine that some might view Bowen’s assessment as overly abrasive, but if undergraduate education is intended to prepare students for the real world, then everybody at Haverford should say “thank you” to Bowen for his hard-hitting wisdom. You can read the full text of Bowen’s speech here.

If only every other commencement speaker might be so brief and direct in their remarks, we would all be better off.

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

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  • Jerry



    I read you frequently and hope you continue to expose the SEC/Wall Street/Political Complex. We have exchanged emails regarding this in the past.

    I agree also about too much “political correctness”, however I pondered your support of Dr. Ben Carsons (who has had a distinguished career). I listened to his Prayer breakfast speech and thought it was a good speech.

    However earlier this year Joshua DuBois in the Daily Beast commented:
    “I heard that Carson was speaking at the Values Voter summit last year, praying that he would focus more on the personal responsibility, family-oriented conservative message that had so much power for him, and for those of us who admired him. But, playing to his audience, Dr. Carson took things in a different direction.

    ”I have to tell you Obamacare is, really I think, the worst thing that’s happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson, a Black man who should know better, told summit attendees. “It was never about healthcare,” he said, “it was about control.”

    This comparison wasn’t a spasm, an aberration. This past week, at another gathering of conservative leaders, Carson declared that we are now living in a “Gestapo age,” and that America has become “very much like Nazi Germany,” because political correctness abounds. This, of course, is pure ignorance, as any Black or Jewish person with the most basic knowledge of history will tell you. The problem is not that Carson has become a prominent Black conservative. There are many conservatives who don’t foolishly equate 21st century America with the Nazi genocide that murdered six million Jews”.

    Having a Commencement speaker that might held those views might put me a bit on edge. And I add, but what do I know??

    Keep up your good work.

  • Shannon Phillips

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