After Sen. Ted Cruz finished his speech at commencement this spring, he seemed to have given the wrong address. Cruz made no attempt to tailor his remarks to the new graduates of Hillsdale College.
Few graduates had any question of their political affiliations. Few graduates were concerned about the success of free markets. Few graduates were in desperate need of a convincing argument against socialism, Hollywood, or materialist complacency in America. Certainly, few wanted to hear pandering quotations from our beloved President Ronald Reagan or calculated, vapid references to the “torch of freedom” that the graduates needed to carry into the world.
All, however, needed assurance that their four-year pursuit of an ordered mind was worthwhile. Unfortunately for the graduates and their families, Cruz did not give this assurance at any point during his speech.
Cruz’s address would have appealed to many supporters at a conservative rally. The rest would have been nonplussed that Cruz’s only real assertions were statistical analyses of the number of American families without food. Frankly, we’re all familiar with the growing welfare state in our country, but, on the afternoon of our graduation, it most certainly wasn’t foremost in our minds.
What we did care about was the feeling in the back of our minds that this intense four-year experience might have been a waste. What we did care about was the fear that our educations are of no value in the real world. Sadly, Cruz did not assuage these concerns.
Yet still, we don’t believe this; we merely fear it. We know precisely the difference between lives lived as whole, thinking individuals versus living as people C.S. Lewis would call “men without chests.” Our professors spent four years telling us that, and we heard them. We simply needed reassuring, perhaps a little perspective on our time spent here from one who has the experience we lack. We didn’t need a different message as we were leaving.
Hillsdale grew our minds to question indoctrination like Cruz’s politically calculated speech, graduates and undergraduates of Hillsdale alike.
In the future, graduation speakers should regard their audience. Perhaps then, the speech would serve as a challenge and encouragement to pursue the truth, rather than a rallying address for one politician.