Samantha Power gave the commencement speech at Pitzer College. Here is the video of her speech. Update: Here's the full transcript of what she says from The Huffington Post.
Before we dig into the substance of what she says, I think we need to give Pitzer College serious kudos for its use of digital technology. Virtually every speaker that they bring to campus they record and put online. What a far-sighted policy. Claremont McKenna College ought to take note and follow Pitzer’s lead. I know we already do something like that with the Athenaeum but we can do a better job.
To her credit, Power referred casually to Monster Gate in which she became a "global villain for a day" after she called Hillary Clinton a "monster." I’ve blogged about that little faux pas before. She thanked Pitzer College for not rescinding its invitation.
As with all speeches, the ending is the most important.
At the end of the speech, she implores the Class of 2008 to “go forth to be this century’s greatest generation. Follow your nose, find a quiet time to listen to your gut, be resilient, find friends who have your back, and please, please, please be a good ancestor.”
You can probably imagine the look on my face. Shouldn’t we use our minds? Or is following our gut and our nose the best tactic for a world that is increasingly complicated? (I guess following one’s heart became all the more clichéd after Titanic.)
Power doesn’t say. Instead, she went through a litany of things that our generation ought to do to make the world better. It was as if she was checking off a grocery list, but she used the styles of Obama’s “you can” save the world bogus.
Here’s the list of what she expects of our generation.
- · Restoring a “Constitution that has come to be seen as optional,” ignoring, of course, that it’s chiefly the progressives that want to bend the Constitution to save the world and find a constitutional right to murdering the unborn.
- · We’re going to be the generation that makes “this country energy independent,” ignoring, of course, that that’s quite the impossibility, according to Robert Bryce, author of Gusher of Lies: The Dangers Delusions of Energy Independence.
- · We’re going to use the same top-down structure of eradicating malaria and try to “wipe out malaria in the developing world,” even though we’ve been down this road before and it hasn’t worked.
- · We’re the generation that will “summon global resource” and half genocide in Darfur and beyond. Ah yes, the usual to infinity and beyond arguments. Where have I heard that before?
- · Finally, we’re going to be the generation that deals with the “scourges of terrorism, poverty, and their causes” and “eradicates violence against the poor.” Yes, that’s going to happen. We are going to change the world. Woo Hooo!
Those kinds of arguments might make for reasoned argument but the problem with the arguments of Samantha Power and to a similar extent, David Gergen is the implicit manner in which we are going to solve those problems – through top-down participation.
Of course those kinds of solutions never deliver what they promise. And why should they? What’s more important is that we demonstrate that we’re doing something. And so Power applauds the students for their commitment to the community.
She lists the accomplishments of the Pitzer Class of 2008. “Seventy-two percent of you have lived abroad, you have led the drive to make your residence halls green, and some of you have hightailed it down to New Orleans to help those in need. Together Pitzer College students amassed 110,000 hours of community service. Power said, “That is 110,000 hours you could have been doing something else – and the community thanks you.”
Who exactly is Professor Power and why does she think she has the right to speak for the community?
Nobody asked the people that housed the Pitzer College students, the students who saw their tuition rise to cover the costs of green buildings of little use, or the residents of the Louisiana who want business, not charity, to follow into their state.
It’s always tragic for me to hear these kinds of speeches from the self-appointed crusaders. They often believe so strongly that what is needed is for a greater push and a greater sense of commitment from all of us for them to achieve their utopian vision, but they always fall short on their road to perfection.
But as we know well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. One might even call it A Problem from Hell.