Guy Farmer: We need to drink from Mitch Daniels

Spring is commencement speech time at American colleges and high schools and I’ve already picked my favorite 2019 graduation speech, which was given by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University.

“Purdue has always been known for sending into the world young men and women who are strong and ready in all the ways that matter in adult life,” Daniels told this year’s graduates. “For the last few years, however, the air has been filled with studies, surveys and books reporting a growing ‘fragility’ among American young people, a decreasing capability to handle even modest stress or setbacks without seeking some sort of adult assistance. ... Referring to such young people, someone has coined the distasteful but descriptive term ‘snowflakes.’”

“Some find a cause in the social media, which have reduced personal interaction” among young people, Daniels said before going on to mention “easier grading in high schools” and “over-protective parenting” as possible reasons for the fragile snowflakes who are showing up on college campuses around the nation.

“I don’t pretend to know what’s causing this phenomenon,” Daniels continued, “(but) I do know that in the world you’re about to enter, emotional strength, in the form people are now terming ‘resilience’ or ‘grit,’ will be essential for you to realize the enormous potential we see in you.” Yes!

In too many elite universities, where parents pay $40,000 to $50,000 per year in tuition for their kids, spineless college presidents and administrators are treating young adults like snowflakes, creating “safe spaces” where they can play with Legos if someone does or says something that makes them uncomfortable, like mentioning the rude, crude, know-nothing president of the United States. Any mention of President Trump seems to send fragile students and thousands of our fellow Americans into paroxysms of quivering helplessness. Even though I’m not a Trumpista, as my readers know, I have difficulty dealing with those suffering from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome).

I know people who watch CNN and MSNBC all day long, hollering at the TV and waving their fists in the air every time our president appears on the tube. I also know extreme right-wingers who watch Fox News 24/7 and go berserk every time a left-wing nutcase shows up on the screen. As for me, whenever I see a Trump “MAGA” rally or a raving socialist on TV I usually go out for a walk, and that seems to help keep me on an even keel. My walks obviate the need for safe spaces or psychological counseling, which is expensive.

I have nothing but admiration for counselors who rush into schools and public places after traumatic events – like school shootings or natural disasters – but I’m not convinced they always make things better. Sometimes counselors diagnose ill-defined psychological issues people may or may not have, thereby turning momentarily upset or uncomfortable people into “victims” in need of much more counseling and/or expensive prescription medications, including addictive opioids. PTSD and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) come to mind. Don’t all teenagers and most of the rest of us suffer from mild ADHD from time to time? I know I do, especially during the playoffs, and you sports fans know what I mean. Go, Warriors!

Well, as Daniels told those Purdue Boilermakers, “Emotional fortitude is enhanced by adversity and conflict. Every great achievement requires a confrontation with stress (and) a conquest of fear. ... Seek out the hard jobs and the tough problems, and you’ll make yourself, your family and your university proud of you.” Amen!

I’d vote for Daniels if he was running for president.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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