Ruben  Navarrette Jr.,

But, if you get past the part about the military, there was something valuable in Kerry's remarks. At the core, he was talking about something young people need to hear a lot more about: How people make choices as they go through life, and how those choices sometimes have dire consequences. His sermon was about personal responsibility and how we shape our own destinies. He was reminding a generation that is in danger of getting sucked into the new American creed of blaming others for your woes that there is no point in seeing yourself at the mercy of powerful and sinister forces beyond your control. And, however clumsily, he issued a blunt warning that those who don't dig into their studies may wind up with fewer options in life.

It reminds me of when anti-immigrant activists go around arguing that unskilled immigrants depress wages for high school dropouts, then they jump to the conclusion that the answer is to limit immigration. When the real moral to the story is this: Don't drop out of school unless you want to suffer the humiliation of competing with -- and possibly losing a job to -- a low-skilled immigrant with a sixth-grade education who can't even speak English.

Success starts with accepting personal responsibility and taking ownership of one's life and making good choices. That's what Kerry was really trying to convey. Granted, he made a mess of it with his ``joke'' about Iraq. But that doesn't change the fact that this is exactly the right message for these times and this generation. And delivering it requires no apology.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.,

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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