Ben Stein's Commencement Speech
Wait, what ever happened to open-mindedness? What ever happened to tolerance for opposing views? According to dictionary.com, one of the meanings of “liberal” is: “favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.”
And let’s face it, many UVM students would call themselves “liberal.” We should not tolerate every view, of course. Certain views — an affection for eugenics, for example, which Charles Darwin ultimately abhorred — should be castigated. But I find that so many campuses are, politically, at least, absolutely monolithic. And ideally, our college years afford us the time and luxury to explore a variety of viewpoints.
When I left for college, my father wrote me a series of letters. Thankfully, I had the good sense to save them. And in one of his earliest letters, upon my arrival on campus, he told me to question what I’d learned, to challenge those viewpoints, but not throw them out indiscriminately. He warned against embracing the new merely for novelty’s sake. I’m not sure I took him seriously at the time. But now I get it. I really do.
He also wrote, and I paraphrase: “I’m sure you’re taking over the place in your own nonviolent way.” How can’t you love a father like that to bits and pieces?
Happy birthday, Charles Darwin. His b-day is Thursday, and he died on my birthday, April 19. Lots of people die on my birthday, which absolutely stinks. Okla. City bombing happened that day, as did the Branch Davidian madness. Columbine happened, what, one day after? And Hitler’s birthday is right around there. The Central Park Jogger was raped and left for dead on my birthday in 1989. April really is the cruelest month.