Graduation Speech: Knowledge is a Powder Keg, You are the Fuse

Graduation Speech: Knowledge is a Powder Keg, You are the Fuse

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Throughout the often murky and turbulent waters of life, we must set our sails towards the noble goal of just and civil society. On this trip we have only education as our compass whose needle guides us towards our humanity. We cannot assume that we are done with our education now that we enter adulthood. Instead, we must continue to strive towards that noble goal of civilization, by creating an educated and not an ignorant society.

Although those who came before us were not perfect, we can learn from them without having to make the same mistakes ourselves. We know that between 1941 and 1945 America and the rest of the world was embroiled in a great world war, one which would test the endurance of the fighting forces worldwide. This was a war that would come to coin the term, genocide. We know about how the German people were misled because we have been told so; we know about apathy because our history classes found the books to teach us; and we know what kind of atrocities that apathy created because our classes gave us the skills to discover the truth and avow that something that horrid would never happen again. More recently global warming was recognized as a serious threat to our future. Through education society has changed its course by becoming more environmentally aware. This was and is civilization.

So why on the night of something as wonderful and momentous as graduation, would I discuss some of the world’s darkest hours? Simple, it is today, in this spot we sit that we begin to wage another war. Not a war with guns and swords, or bulldozers and fires. No, together our generation is donning the armor to fight a war for civilization. Because it is by making choices today and tomorrow, it is through teaching the people how to think for themselves, and learning what really happened that keeps us from being mislead by falseness.

Our fight is to teach the world about science so that we will understand our world, what is possible and what’s not. Why we cannot assume antibiotics will always work. To understand language so that we can read and comprehend, stay current and stay balanced. Language enables us to read the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and for the only time in some of our lives understand the coming of age of an African American woman.

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We need art to know what we would be missing if we only know science and we need math for it is the universal language. (A language that many of you know and I don’t speak at all). So one day when all else has failed in reason, we can fall to math. We need to understand other languages so our civilizations can communicate with each other. Knowing another language enables the German people to share their culture and heritage with us. We need history so that we may know the past and may not be condemned to repeat our errors. We need to know why we had a great Depression and what went wrong and why World War I and World War II started. And why all this happened in 50 years.

Civilization is our humanity and what makes us human makes us think. We must be educated so that we can be the best we can be as human beings, so that we can create justice, understanding and compassion.

Now that we are embarking on the rest of our lives, I challenge you to never stop thinking or learning. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said in "Tender is the Night": "Either you think or else others have to think for you and take power from you." When we stop thinking, we lose the power that makes us uniquely human. So whether you’re going to a university, or a community college, whether you’re going in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, whether you plan to start working or pursue some type of vocational education never stop learning. The world is more than grades, more than stuff in the books. The world is a powder keg of knowledge and we all are the fuses.

What we do is so important, we will affect people’s lives and their happiness. And our humanity and education is what will decide whether we are kind or cruel, fair or not. Educate yourself and your children, your neighbors and your parents. Teach them all you can, show them the civility within you, and the education you have.

We, the Class of 2012, have the awesome power of knowledge. Education has been a gift from these wonderful parents and educators and I ask you to grow and learn and use what you have. Don’t ever assume its time to stop. For we will be the people who say that genocide is wrong, the environment matters and education is a priority and we will say this because we are more civilized because we took to the task of learning.
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