When you reach a certain age, you face certain realities. For instance, you will probably never win an academy award and get to go on national television and thank all the people who should properly be thanked for all the good things that have happened in your life until the orchestra plays you off. And you will probably never be asked to give a commencement address, because let’s face it, you are never going to win a Nobel prize or donate a building or be shot into space.
So nobody has asked. But here is the commencement address I would give if I were.
Young men and women.
Some of you support the war in Iraq and some of you loath it. Some of you have friends and family over there, though it is likely in an age without conscription most of you do not.
There is something you must not do. You must never confuse your feelings about this war with your feelings about your fellow countrymen and women who are fighting it. If you are against this war, you must channel your rage at your elders who made it happen and not at your contemporaries who are there. If you have gone to Iraq, you must never confuse expressions of dislike, despair or disparagement of the war for expressions of the same about yourselves, even if older voices goad you to do so.
So far, you have done well at this. My generation failed utterly and created within itself such hard divisions that they echo down the decades still. We created such intense walls of hatred, suspicion and guilt that you saw the same old arguments and animosities played out in the last presidential election—more than 30 years after the war ended.
We will never get over this. We have inflicted wounds that will never heal. So you must never start. Blame the older generation on all sides that took you there—but never, ever blame each other.