The college commencement address you won’t hear

You are not special. You may not wish to hear that. It may be a shock to you. From the time you could walk until today, you have been told you are special. This comes from parents, teachers, and professors. You have been given participation awards for simply showing up. Likewise, you got school grades from kindergarten to high school senior by again simply showing up, or maybe just being enrolled in school.

Going to college has traditionally been a chance to meet others with different ideas and opposing views on a wide range of issues. On this campus you have been protected from so-called hate speech, which is determined to be anything that is different than your views. If you are white, you have told you don’t deserve your “whiteness”. If you are a white male, you have been demeaned and degraded. All of this in the name of fairness.

You have been provided safe spaces when you feel the least bit threatened by anything imaginable. You were given delays or even waivers of exams because Trump won the election.

You have been told repeatedly that America is an unfair nation. You were taught that socialism is the answer. The answer to what ... or other alternatives, I suspect was not discussed. Sexism, racism, and misogyny are common themes for the cause of anything that doesn’t recognize you as the special child you think you are.

You are not special. You are now one of several hundred thousand graduates who will be competing for the same jobs. Those jobs, with rare exceptions, will not have six figure starting salaries and corner offices. You will need to start where everyone else did, at the bottom.

If you had to work part time to get your education, good for you. You have a leg up on the competition. If your major is one that required some academic rigor, such as engineering, nursing, or the sciences, you will find it much easier to find employment. Otherwise, you are about to find out just how much, or more correctly how little, the last four or more years counts in the real world.

You are now about to enter the real world. You will find that you must show up to work on time, do the job you are hired for (or more), and not complain about how unfair everything is. Employers don’t care about your race, sex or political beliefs. You are expected to produce more for your employer than you cost. If you don’t accept these realities, you will be replaced by another college graduate competing for and waiting for your job.

The real world isn’t fair. You won’t find safe spaces in the workplace. You won’t find protection from competition. You will find that you don’t have a right to a job, health care, housing, a car, cell phone, or anything else, regardless of what your liberal professors told you. The only rights you are entitled to are those enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and codified by our Constitution. Those are of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

You will also be expected to show respect to those in charge. If you choose to walk out on a meeting because you don’t like what you hear, or it is not in “solidarity” with some group, just keep walking. You won’t be invited back.

Finally, Memorial Day is approaching. Two comments here. First, if you believe everyone should have free college tuition, there is one way now to get it. That is the G.I. Bill. Simply enlist and serve in the military first.

Second, here is a history lesson you may not have been taught in college. Memorial Day was, and is, to remember and honor those who lay down their lives for this country. You may hate the thought of war, but please keep in mind that some died for your right hold any belief you wish, however ridiculous the rest of the country sees it to be. Also, bullies keep on bullying until someone stands up to them. They don’t care about safe spaces, only that they will get their rear kicked by the U.S. military.

As you enter the real world, you have a choice. You can hold to the beliefs you have been taught by others who have never had to succeed in the real world, or you can adapt to reality. The choice, and the consequences thereof, is yours and yours alone.

Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at


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