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Question Authority: A Commencement Address for Today’s Graduates
By Deborah T. Bucknam

I have not been asked to give a commencement address this year, so I have decided to impart my wisdom on the younger generation in written form:

Nearly a half a century ago, young people of my generation—the Baby Boomers-- rebelled against what we called the "Establishment" with slogans such as "Question Authority" and "Don’t Trust Anyone over Thirty". We joined causes which transformed American society. You are the beneficiaries of those noble causes which helped to emancipate minorities and women from the racism and bigotry in American society. Baby Boomers were also in the forefront of the nascent environmental movement which transformed our relationship with the natural world.

The Baby Boom generation—your parents and grandparents-- are now showing the symptoms of age. We talk incessantly of past glories; we relate every modern event and problem to the past. We have become sanctimonious and humorless. Members of our generation, from teachers to Hollywood celebrities to Speaker of the U.S. House and the President of the United States, have become scolds. The transformative movements of my generation —civil rights, women’s liberation, and environmentalism-- are now in their decrepitude as demonstrated by the banality of their leaders who have substituted the heroic causes of their youth for political power grabs, television face time and endless award ceremonies.

Baby boomers are now the Establishment; but today’s Establishment is more monolithic and narrow-minded than the Establishment we railed against in our youth. The leaders of our great cultural institutions, namely, mainstream churches, the media, academia, trade unions, Hollywood, our powerful charitable foundations, the Washington political establishment, and even much of Wall Street now think in lockstep.

What are the tenets of faith of members of today’s Establishment? It is certainly not the faith of our early life. In those long ago days our generation had faith in freedom, equal opportunity, and "doing your own thing." Now the Baby Boom Establishment’s faith lies in unprecedented government power and control over nearly every aspect of our lives, disguised in platitudes about compassion, fairness, safety, "environmental protection" and "social justice". Worse, these tenets are held not only by the American Establishment, but by most of the elites around the globe.

It is now your generation’s turn to question authority, to rebel against the Establishment, to midwife a new birth of freedom. Here are proposals on how to bring about your generation’s insurrection:

  • Educate yourself. The pabulum many of you have received in school will not sustain you for the duration. As young people, you lack perspective— part of the fun of growing old is that you gain that skill. But you can gain perspective now on the human condition, and discern what are the enduring truths, by reading the great original works of Western and Eastern literature, philosophy and history. You will often find them difficult but also fascinating and absorbing. Remember that our Founders were voracious readers before they were revolutionaries.
  • Fight for diversity and freedom of speech. The Baby Boom Establishment has become increasingly intolerant of dissent. Speakers are disinvited from campuses or shouted down. Academicians who dare stray from the tenets of the elite Establishment are censured and even fired. Political dissenters from Establishment dogma are ridiculed as stupid, racist, extremists, and even criminals. Establishment politicians are advocating regulating speech on the airwaves and the internet. Your generation must fight for those whose speech is being muzzled even if you disagree with the speaker. You must advocate loudly for intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.
  • Question conventional wisdom. You will find the exercise bracing. Establishment faith depends on false beliefs which you should analyze and question. The Establishment believes, for example, that individuals are incapable of making choices about their own lives, including choices about their children’s education, health, safety, and moral upbringing. The Establishment believes that government bureaucrats are wiser and more compassionate than those who work in the private sector. The Establishment believes that democracy is reserved for the elite, and the masses must be guided and even controlled. All of these false beliefs and others must be aggressively challenged.
  • Get involved! I know every commencement speaker gives you that advice, but it is imperative for your generation to get involved with your community and with politics. Why? Because the Establishment of my generation has become so reactionary and bigoted that our freedom is at risk.
So gird yourself for the adventure ahead, and take on the Establishment, for your sake, and the sake of future generations.

Deborah T. Bucknam, Esq.
Law Offices of Deborah T. Bucknam & Associates, PC

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