Authority: A Commencement Address for Today’s Graduates
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
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
So gird yourself for the adventure
ahead, and take on the Establishment, for your sake, and the sake of future
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.
Deborah T. Bucknam, Esq.
Law Offices of Deborah
T. Bucknam & Associates, PC
# # # # #