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Another sad spectacle at Duke University

By Nancy Andersen

University commencement speakers took the stage this past weekend to advise students of the Class of 2022 now ready to join the real world.  I observed the commencement ceremony at Duke University, as my niece graduated magna cum laude.  As a Duke alumna myself, I was proud of her: half of her college experience was marred by extreme COVID lockdown policies, yet she remained focused, worked hard, and earned her accomplishments.  My extended family — which included several Duke grads and employees — settled atop Wallace Wade stadium, bracing unseasonably cold weather, awaiting the commencement speakers’ advice to the next generation.

The featured Duke commencement speaker was General Motors CEO Mary Barra.  She spoke of five lessons from the kitchen table.  I appreciated her speech and humble advice, especially grateful that she did not receive the memo that the words “diversity” and “equity” are crucial features of modern-day academic discourse.  Unfortunately, her grounded advice will be overshadowed by the student commencement speech preceding it.

Prior to Ms. Barra’s speech, the chosen Duke undergraduate student speaker spoke of a “Duke Nation.”  The Duke senior described the idea that if a moat existed around Duke, “[Duke] could be its own tiny island nation like Cuba or Sri Lanka.”  “Cuba?” I thought at the time.  “Well, that probably isn’t a terrible comparison when you really think about the communist collectivism on campuses.”  The remaining speech contained citizenship metaphors, passport allusions, and a “world of experiences.”…

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