Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave the high school commencement address at his daughter’s public high school. You can find the transcript at the above link.
Here are my favorite bits…
“The challenges faced by different societies at different times, take different forms. Defending against the longbow, versus defending against the S4 missile — but in substance, they are always the same. Number one, the forces of nature: How do we assure our continuing supply of clean air and water, food, fuel, shelter and clothing? And number two, the forces of man: How to get along with one another, or defend against those we cannot get along with…. So if you want to think yourselves educated, do not think that you face unprecedented challenges…. Much closer to the truth is a quite different platitude: There’s nothing new under the sun.
“The second platitude I want discuss comes in many flavors. It can be variously delivered as, “Follow your star,” or “Never compromise your principles.” Or, quoting Polonius in “Hamlet” — who people forget was supposed to be an idiot — “To thine ownself be true.” Now this can be very good or very bad advice. Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it’s the North Star. But if you want to head north and it’s Mars, you had better follow somebody else’s star….. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction.
“Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody — remember this — neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, “Now, let’s create a really oppressive and evil society.” Hitler said, let’s take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order. And Lenin said, let’s take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world. In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. Not merely in their ends, but in their means. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person person begins with being a wise person, then when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.”
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