You have been hearing all of your life about this moment - your first big step into what you have been called and told is the real world. What, you may be asking yourself this morning, is this real life all about? Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2005 at Dartmouth, it's not college - it's not high school. Real life is junior high.And, on a more serious note, this one:
The world you're about to enter is filled with adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still be making silly mistakes, you'll have a temper tantrum, you'll have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, you'll say something dumb and at least once a week you'll wonder, "Will I ever grow up?"
You can change that. In pursuit of passions, always be young. In your relationship with others, always be a grown-up. Set a standard and stay faithful to it.
Your individual hopes and dreams will be seriously compromised if the ship of state is allowed to drift on a hazardous course. We cannot pretend that simply because there has not been another 9-11 the world is as it once was. We are not yet near the end of an epic struggle between the Western ideal of rule of law, tolerance, pluralism and modernity and the advocates of a jihad vision of Islam.Best of luck to the Class of 2005!
We cannot wish away the complex set of conditions that fuel a rage across a broad band of the globe where too many young men and women your age are caught in a crossfire of claims on their faith and another way of life playing out on the wider screens that reflect the images of our world - a world of unveiled women, material excess, secular joy disconnected from their lives of deprivation and uncertainty.
These young men and women are not incidental to the world that you are entering. They are the fastest growing population in a world already over-crowded, especially in that part of the globe where self-determination remains at best a work in progress. Or at best, a faint rumor or a distant promise.
Many of them, as I know from my recent travels there again just this spring, love our culture and speak our language but we show, in their eyes, no interest in returning the favor. Too many of them love the idea of America but hate our government, envy our freedoms and deeply resent what they see as our sense of entitlement, our determination to tell them how to live their lives. The worst among them had to be punished and the fight goes on, but no army can conquer them all or force them to change.
So as you leave here in pursuit of your dreams, try to imagine theirs. Stand tall. Don't apologize for what you have or what you believe in, but get to know what they don't have, and why.
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