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According to US Federal Election Commission data, 96 percent of Ivy League faculty and administrators that gave money to a presidential candidate in 2012 donated to President Obama. The left-leaning nature of American academia is well-known, but rarely raised in polite company. Speaking at Harvard’s 363rd commencement last year, however, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did just that. Citing the Election Commission’s figure, he uncomfortably tempered Harvard’s next generation of leaders with a message of tolerance over uniformity. “There was more disagreement than that among the members of the old Soviet Politburo,” he said, adding the obvious sleight that “a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.”
In order to weather its current economic and political challenges, America needs not only a more balanced exchange of ideas, but to reconnect with tried and tested principles. Thus, the purpose of Zev Chafet’s Remembering Who We Are, a diverse collection of college commencement addresses, “is not to develop a right-wing orthodoxy, but precisely to show the intellectual and cultural nuance on that side of the spectrum.”
From neurosurgeon Ben Carson, to playwright David Mamet and others, the speeches thread messages of individual liberty, responsibility, free enterprise, and the rule of law with personal experience and advice to the next generation.