Posted by Brian at 7:00 PM
Jon Stewart rules
But that's no surprise. He just received an honorary doctorate from William and Mary and served as their commencement speaker. The entire text is available here, but I'll give you the highlights.
Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.
Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.
I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize.
But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people. You do this—and I believe you can—you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw’s kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don’t, you’re not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us.
We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.
Like all good comedy, there's a lot of truth in what he says. The world is broken right now, and a good part of the reason why is because of our leadership's willingness to declare a war on something as ephemeral and abstract as "terror" rather than actually defining what they ought to accomplish, namely, a reduction in the conditions that breed terrorists and an effective defense against those few who would be evil regardless of what world conditions are like.
Stewart does get into the usual graduation platitudes--compares college life to real life and states that competence is a rarity--but he closes it with a wonderful anecdote.
And the other thing….that I will say is, when I spoke earlier about the world being broke, I was somewhat being facetious, because every generation has their challenge. And things change rapidly, and life gets better in an instant.
I was in New York on 9-11 when the towers came down. I lived 14 blocks from the twin towers. And when they came down, I thought that the world had ended. And I remember walking around in a daze for weeks. And mayor Guliani had said to the city, “You’ve got to get back to normal. We’ve got to show that things can change and get back to what they were.”
And one day I was coming out of my building, and on my stoop, was a man who was crouched over, and he appeared to be in deep thought. And as I got closer to him I realized, he was playing with himself. And that’s when I thought, “You know what, we’re gonna be OK.”
And you know what? If enough people have that attitude, we will be.