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If the speaker were blunt

Don Rogers

Imagine a straight-shooting high school commencement speech Sunday. One a little lighter with the soaring rhetoric about changing the world and a bit more rooted in reality.Here’s how it might go: Congratulations. You’ve reached a a huge milestone in your life. Some of you have even earned it.A high school education has come to be viewed as a given in today’s America. It’s a testament to the success of public education, a uniquely American invention that may be more responsible than anything for our ascension to superpower than even the gifts of size and geography.It’s also come to be taken utterly for granted by too many students and their parents. Countries that academics dismiss as unfit for democracy have far more citizens who vote, for instance, than we do.We don’t pay attention in class. Then we don’t pay attention to even our most basic civic responsibilities. We claim we are too busy. But the truth is we’ve grown spoiled, lazy.Education raised this nation to greatness. Lack of it may well send us reeling into our decline.Some of you gathered here today will continue your education, become citizens who remain active learners, critical thinkers and full participants in a great democracy that is far more fragile than so many of us assume.More of you frankly will grow into dullards, wholly undeserving of the blessings you enjoy and take for granted. Maybe that’s most of you. Statistically, that’s the ugly truth. Some of you will go on to college; some of you who go will even graduate. Some of you who graduate will prize contribution over merely getting ahead. And some of you who get this far will indeed change the world for the better.But far more of you will vote for “American Idol” than your community’s mayor. You’ll get caught up in your personal dramas, making money, seeking entertainment. Always greedy for entertainment.You’ll have less time for learning about your community and its issues, pay even less attention to your children’s education than you did your own, be of less consequence other than as a carrier for the next generation.You slid through school. The odds are you’ll slide through life, letting some of your classmates across this still-great nation carry your growing weight instead of taking full responsibility as a grown-up citizen of your community and country. You are more likely to join the mindless masses than make real use of your beautiful mind.So, hey, good luck. Most of your teachers and some of your parents still have high hopes for you despite all contrary evidence so far.Oh, you wanted pretty words in place of a straight shot in this venue? Well, we won’t be speaking to you from the podium, blowing smoke about how wonderful you are today as you jog along at half or less of your true ability.No, we still have expectations, knowing full well that few of you will meet them. But there’s time yet to pick it up, to get in the game, to go for it, to think beyond your silly selves, to make real contributions to your community – and to civilization. Oh yeah, you can do it. Your potential is boundless. You can make a difference. You’ll have to work at it, take chances, set your mind, dare to be different, step out of the ordinary.Some of you do that already. Some of you will discover this in college, or the military, or on the job. But when we speak of you all being the future, we’re really talking to those few who will go out and grab it.Is that you? Make this speech a lie.Vail, Colorado


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