20 June 2006

Tom Brokaw's commencement speech

My sister mentioned Tom Brokaw's commencement speech at Stanford. So I decided to have a look.

It's basically a call for young people to embrace tradition and to steer away from seductive on-demand entertainment world of music, internet, and video.

There are some major problems with Brokaw's speech. Parents expect their children to matriculate at great universities (like Stanford) and more importantly, they expect a return on their investment. A college education is damn expensive and you can't exactly go galloping off to Africa to help poor people if your parents paid $120,000 for college. What is the ratio of parents who desire their children to become lawyers and doctors versus the parents who want their children to work in a relief organization? Brokaw himself (ironically) states that today's grandfathers had their college education funded by the GI Bill.

I also find insulting Brokaw's insinuation that the majority of young people walk around oblivious to the world -- constantly wired to a virtual world. I'm just a few years older than the class of 2006 and I don't feel corrupted. There is certainly an infatuation period with new technology but it doesn't last for long. Young people have always spent their time in ways that disappoint their elders.

And I find it arrogant that Brokaw spends all his time discussing examples of public service that are related to going abroad. What about raising good children, building a community at the workplace, or just giving your best? The "small stuff" is just as important, maybe more so. Personally, I find it really dissatisfying to run any large operation with an iffy purpose. I'd rather accomplish minor, focused objectives and do them well. I think it's better to start a small-scale operation, to improve yourself and those around you first.

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