Advice to students? Take an honest look at the current state of things

By ED FELSHER,

I have, for a long time, harbored a desire to deliver the Commencement Address to the graduating class of students at some school, somewhere. 

Doesn’t matter where.  I just want to speak to a bunch of students who are about to enter adulthood and become responsible citizens.

Here are a few excerpts from the speech I’ve prepared for the occasion:

Students, faculty and staff, parents, it’s a pleasure to be here and to address this class of prospective graduates.

Students, this ordeal will go down easy if you will follow four rules of behavior while I’m speaking - wake up, sit up, shut up and turn off your cell phones.

Here’s the intent of my speech.  I want to build a fire in your gut to change your world. 

I want you to get angry with me and my generation for the mess we’ve created in the world, that we’re dumping in your laps. 

I want to make revolutionaries of you, to build in you a powerful urge to make America and the world a better place.

We must begin with the truth, even if it hurts, with an honest look at the current state of America. 

America is a troubled nation, troubled because of the divisions, racial, political financial/wealth that exist across our land and among our people.

Should the existing divisions in America continue, or worsen, it’s possible, in the far-off future, for America to devolve into a land of competing sub-national geographic elements, perhaps involving armed conflict, with each of the separate elements seeking to dominate the entire land mass, by force, if necessary. 

What was once home to the fifty United States of America, the city on a hill “The Last and Best Hope of Mankind,” land of the free and home of the brave, would exist only in the history books.

America is troubled because our institutions of government appear dysfunctional, and misguided, lacking the ability to focus on and practice the proper roles and functions of government. 

While our elected officials spend a disproportionate amount of their time and energy investigating other members of the “swamp” establishment, America goes without a working, effective and efficient government. 

Troubled because America is deeply in debt and getting deeper with each year of deficit spending by our national government.

Troubled because too many of those entrusted with leading our government at the highest levels appear incompetent and incapable of understanding America’s problems and delivering solutions.

They choke on self-imposed internal investigations that go nowhere and prove nothing, while failing to address more critical matters, i.e. healthcare, immigration, education, environment, drugs, defense, federal spending and crime, related to governing in this age of monumental challenges to ruling America. 

Anyone currently observing the workings of America’s politics and politicians would be confused. 

Understandably so.

America’s politics has for generations been a competitive contest among elements of the struggle for political power.

The words of the contestants toward their opponents were frequently harsh and ugly. 

Everyone understood and accepted that this was part of the game of politics and part of the political process.  But things seem to have changed a bit, for the worse. 

Interaction among and between America’s politicians and their political parties has grown uglier and more vitriolic than ever before in our history. 

This embarrasses America at home and before the world.

We Americans like to bad-mouth our government, especially those elected officials and their bureaucratic horse-holders who serve in the Washington, D.C. “swamp.” 

Too many Americans make a sport of criticizing President Trump, often in very harsh and unflattering terms. 

This diminishes the image not only of President Trump the person but the office of the presidency as well. 

That’s bad for the country.

While I do not profess to be a Trump fan, he is my president and I will honor him for that. 

We do well to remember that, in times past, when America faced life-and death crises with world-wide consequences, it was the person of our president and the strength of our presidency, that united the world and forged the international military and diplomatic partnerships that produced victory.

Support your military, with your voices and your pocket books.

I urge you to get really upset and angry when the politicians mess with your military, and I emphasize that it is your military, your sons and daughters, husbands, mothers and friends. 

History records that every time America experiences a period of relative peace, the politicians start proposing to cut the armed forces. 

Don’t let them do it. 

Stand up and sound off.

Raise your voices. 

Make yourselves heard. 

Pound on their desks, if you must. 

Yell and scream, if you must.

Jump up and down, if you must. 

Remember the story of the farmer who couldn’t get his mule to pull a wagon, despite pleading with the mule to get up and move, so he hit the mule in the head with a board. 

When the farmer was asked why he hit the mule in the head, he replied, “I had to get his attention.”

So get your politicians to pay attention to you, even if it takes a 2 x 4 up-side the head (figuratively speaking, of course). 

Do what you have to do to be heard. Only then will you be effective in defending your soldiers, sailors, and airmen. 

History also records that when America is militarily weak, war is more likely anywhere on the earth. 

For the sake of the men and women who will occupy the ranks of America’s future military, on the front lines and in the foxholes, demand that our nation’s political leadership keep America’s military strong and combat ready, adequately manned, paid, equipped, trained, led and motivated.

This is a sacred responsibility that you owe to those who defend you and keep the American dream alive.

Felsher, a longtime Hattiesburg resident, is a retired Army colonel.

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