Framing the Dialogue

End of the World Commencement

We recently had the good fortune of attending the graduation ceremony for our oldest as he moves from university life to working life. This is even more gratifying for him as he has secured gainful employment in a field that he loves. Congratulations Kevin!

The ceremony was full of pomp and circumstance befitting the achievements of the now former students. Professors in robes, loud trumpets blared, and around 250 graduated in their blue cap and gowns. Speeches were made and diplomas (really just place holders until the real ones are mailed this week) were handed out. The university is a Catholic school and I would say fairly conservative for a college these days and this was the graduation from only the business school which, in general, is even a little more conservative.

The choice to deliver the commencement speech was a woman CEO from a local, large, non-profit organization. She began her speech with a somewhat brief history of her climb to her current pinnacle. It was somewhat interesting though perhaps too much about her. This is where it started to get bizarre for me. As a businesswoman she started discussing the disparity between what men make and what women make in the business world. She joked that during her time in the workforce that the gap had closed, but only by a few percentage points. She told the young women that perhaps by the time they were her age they would make as much as their male counterparts.

These very inspiring words for the new graduates who were both female and male were followed by a litany of liberal talking points that left me with my head shaking in disbelief. She discussed/mentioned global warming, childhood obesity, global population, the increase in diabetes in the United States, the poor state of the American health care system, unethical businessmen, UFOs, 9/11, and whether the CIA killed JFK. Okay the last few were exaggerated, but she chose some bizarre topics for a commencement speech. She did end on a somewhat more typical and expected topic, but overall she probably contributed to a few calls to the mental crisis center.

The day was “saved” by the words of the school’s dean as he offered encouraging words and a little humor to his graduating class. I was thankful, but wondered if it was just me. My daughter sat next to me and I caught her watching my reaction to some of the talking points. She doesn’t read FramingTheDialogue, but she hears enough around the house to get my point of view. I think that she thought I would just get up and leave. I felt the notion, but I have gotten used to folks politicizing events inappropriately. When the ceremony was over I casually mentioned the speech to my son and he had a similar reaction to mine. I also ran into an old high school and college classmate of mine as we were taking pictures who had the same reaction.

Perhaps the best lesson for the students was how this business “leader” chose to dwell in the past and politics rather than strictly focus on encouraging the anxious students on their path into the real world. I don’t know anything about her (other than the details that she shared), but she didn’t strike me as a leader that I’d follow and perhaps a poor choice for a commencement address.

By the way we celebrated at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and consumed large quantities of tender grilled beef. The food was great and the irony was lost on me until now that we supported the beef industry and their methane gas-producing cows…though the cow we ate will pass gas no more.

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