At last, a graduation address that says something substantive! (Check out Jeb Bush’s lame and god-toadying lucubrations at Liberty University, and Jeffrey Tayler’s analysis, that I highlighted yesterday.)
Here’s novelist Ian McEwan’s recent 15-minute commencement speech at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He first tenders some congratulations and a teeny bit of advice, and then gets to his real topic: the value of free speech. This is a great topic for college students, far removed from the usual trite and anodyne commencement-speech bromides. McEwan’s view is similar to mine, and he brings up all the recent issues: the fatwa against Salman Rusdie, the Charlie Hebdo murders, the silencing of Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University, the widespread failure to criticize Islamic extremists. This address must have shocked the students—if they were listening. But you should listen, for it’s a Professor Ceiling Cat Recommendation™:
Dickinson has thoughtfully provide a full transcript at this site.
The speech was highlighted by—and once again we must share our bed with conservatives—the National Review, which says this:
McEwan criticized the cowardly behavior of six writers who withdrew from the PEN American Center’s annual gala over their discomfort with the organization’s support for Charlie Hebdo. He argued that the time to “remember your Voltaire” is precisely when confronted with scathing speech that “might not be to your taste” and said he was disappointed that “so many authors could not stand with courageous fellow writers and artists at a time of tragedy.”
. . . A window into the audience’s discomfort with McEwan’s message can be seen in the fact that the first applause came nearly eleven and a half minutes into the 15-minute speech after a reference to recent deaths of unarmed black men in police custody and grinding poverty — what McEwan called the “ultimate sanction against free expression.” His condemnation of the massacre of twelve cartoonists in their Paris offices by contrast drew near silence.