WASHINGTON -- I think we can all agree that the most inane speeches delivered nowadays in America are delivered at college commencement ceremonies. Oh, to be sure, speeches intoned at high-level meetings of the Loyal Order of Moose, the Rotarians and the National Organization for Women are also vacant, pompous and often delusory. Yet all such orations come off as Lincoln's second inaugural when compared to the bloviations exhaled on almost any American campus when it comes time for the students to don their mortarboards and parade past their adoring parents and snooty profs. Often the students wear funny shoes or carry things subversive and possibly risque beneath their graduation gowns. Helium balloons are attached to their caps, and occasionally noisemakers -- borne surreptitiously on their persons -- make rude sounds of bodily functions. Such are the antics of graduating seniors at our great institutions of higher learning this season, and frankly I support them in their obstreperousness.
The speechifying that they have to endure is usually excruciating. A few weeks back I was forced to sit through graduation ceremonies by a member of my family who insists on the solemnity of tradition, and in his eyes graduation ceremonies are a tradition. I wish I had brought an air horn. On the first day of the ceremonies I was forced to listen to a supremely self-satisfied "electric violinist" from some rock band exhort all within earshot "to dream" and to make way for "change." Starting with President Ronald Reagan, my fellow libertarian conservatives have made enormous "change," change unforeseen by two prior generations of progressives. Apparently this is not the change that the oaf at the podium was prescribing. Precisely what he did mean by change remained vague but sounded frankly old-fashioned. The following day I endured a popular novelist, employing the same thoughtless platitudes. In addition he condemned war conducted by politicians. Possibly he favored military dictatorship. His was not a very precise mind. From his remarks on the Vietnam War one might conclude that it was raging in 1977, the year of his own graduation. He insisted the war's casualties were all around him.