Topics to select for 2010 commencement speeches haven’t changed much over the years. A speech this year could be almost the same as one given in 1910, expect a few words may need to be changed here and there.
You wouldn’t find too many differences in the speech given by President Teddy Roosevelt a century ago to graduates of the Military Academy at West Point, from graduation speech given this year by President Barack Obama at the same institution.
Graduates of all educational institutions this year will hear lectures by commencement speakers on the importance of seeking meaningful careers. Of course, graduates of military academies won’t have to worry about entering the job market in today’s shaky economy. There will be enough war and international tensions around to keep each of them busy for years.
The most popular topics for this year’s graduates of almost any high school, college or university could be in the general areas of: challenges to America’s youth, peace, war, the economy, ecology and responsible citizenship. Let’s examine some of these basics and extenuating circumstances.
1. Challenges to America’s youth: Maybe some cynics believe the speech should begin with: Whatever you do to the world, you couldn’t possibly mess it up any worse than we have. However, the usual words will be included, some almost poetic: Our generation passes on the torch to you, with the challenge that you will hold it high to keep our free and democratic nation as the beacon of light for the rest of the world to admire. One challenge is to practice responsible citizenship, to participate electrions and, unlike the current in-power generation, vote in competent, honest politicians.
2. Peace: Considering the reality of what’s happening in the Middle East, Mexico, Korea and other troubled spots in the world, a commencement speaker may have problems talking about peace. However, there are always the tried and true cliches: As active citizens of this great nation, it will be your sacred task to bring the spirit of cooperation between nations of the world. The speaker shouldn’t mention that humans have been killing each other for the past 10,000 years, and aren’t likely to stop any time soon.
3. War: This year, even the most creative commencement speakers, would have trouble ignoring the fact that America is actively involved in war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may soon conduct combat operations in Pakistan. Therefore, it may be necessary to do the wrapped-in-the-flag routine.
Speak about the traditions of patriotism, and how brave Americans fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, etc. As in all of those wars, tell the graduates that there are bad guys out there who want to kill us, and they must be stopped by the new generation of loyal Americans.
4. The economy and ecology: The economy is in a mess, so the commencement speaker will have to give it a hopeful spin with words something like: Although getting a job in today’s uncertain economy may be difficult, each of you can do it if you are determined to succeed.
The same emphasis must be made on the ecology: Although massive off-shore oil spills, global warming and choking pollution are problems, I know you young folks will get out there, roll up your sleeves and solve all of the world’s troubles.
Among the most popular topics for 2010 commencement speeches are challenges to America’s youth, peace, war, ecology and the economy. We can only hope this year’s graduates will not be totally overwhelmed with the enormity of those challenges, and at least attempt to solve some of them.