From the editor: Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker, gave the keynote address at Stanford University’s 2016 Commencement. Rep. Tom Cole ’71, R.-Okla., spoke at Grinnell’s Commencement. Both addresses are available for viewing on YouTube.
Ken Burns, in his Stanford commencement speech this year, impassionedly told the graduates: “For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified…. [one] is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Congressman Tom Cole ’71, recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at Commencement, gave this election advice to the graduates: “It doesn’t matter whether you are on the left or the right. First, look for an institutionalist — someone who believes in the institutions of the country, who believes in fair play, who believes in open elections, who believes in the public process and understands something about the institutions he or she wants to lead.”
Rep. Cole had the audacity to say his words to the graduates while not disavowing the man Ken Burns described above who threatens our institutions. He even urged the graduates that “when you confront something, be willing to take the risk. And be willing to see it through to the end.” I really hope that the congressman’s position has changed by the time you read this, for his sake and our country’s.