The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College’s 161st Commencement, held in the College’s Biermann Athletic Center on May 11, 2013.
Today is a day of celebration. For you graduates, it’s a day to celebrate your hard work, your commitment, time, energy, passion, and prayers that you have put in to graduate from Hillsdale College. It’s also a day to celebrate the sacrifice and dedication your family has put in to get you here. I am honored to join you today—but let me say I fully recognize that the most forgettable part of this important day is going to be the politician delivering your commencement speech.
This morning I had the opportunity to tour your wonderful campus, and one of the highlights for me was the statue of Margaret Thatcher. I understand that when the statue was unveiled, she sent a letter of praise that read: “Hillsdale College symbolizes everything that is good and true in America. You uphold the principles and cherish the values which have made your country a beacon of hope.” I couldn’t agree more.
There are commencements being held on campuses all over the country this spring, but this one is different. Hillsdale, it is known across the country, is in a class by itself. Those graduating from other colleges are being told to go out and make something of themselves. But for the men and women receiving their degrees here today, expectations are higher. Because of the education you received here, you are uniquely prepared to provide desperately needed, principled leadership to your families, your churches, your communities, your country, and your fellow man. While other graduates have been exposed to college courses such as “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” you have been grounded in an understanding of our Constitution and of the freedom it was designed to preserve.