Graduation speech of Thomas Jefferson at Berkeley
Alumni of the Berkeley University,
Here I am, standing in front of you all, the man, who wrote the constitution of the U.S., the ultimate law of the country. I see your faces, filled with thoughts and dreams of future, future that starts now. But your dreams, views, opinions, lives were mutilated and have changed a lot in the past few years.
You are the rebellious generation of sixties: lots of problems fell down on you, like snow, leaving you frustrated. You were trying to cope with all of them at once; your parents went through one of the most awful wars at all times: Second World War. And they came back changed, covered with inner and outer scars. Outer scars heal fast, even if they don’t, it is not a tragedy. But inner scars are what you should fear: they change the mind prospective, change the perception of the world. You built a wall between your parents and you, because they couldn’t understand you and your motives. Like Patrick Henry said: “Different men often see the same subject in different lights”, it is even truer about different generations. The gap was awful, and to fill the painful space of misunderstanding, drugs came to the society, embracing it with poison love, providing illusions of peace.
Vietnam War came soon enough to hit society even worse, especially young part of it, especially you. Young people were taken out of colleges and sent to fight for something, something they didn’t even know. But the war was not fought in Vietnam only; it was fought in the peaceful society too. “The war is inevitable – and let it come!” – That was the concept of war, and at the meantime people tried to get away from it. Marches and protests were held all over the country, crying for freedom of choice, but government didn’t want to listen. It held its own course, not giving people freedom of choice, like a true democratic society should do. So, peaceful war for true democracy started.
Your riot wasn’t a bloody riot, one of those ‘killing and smashing ones’, you just wanted to prevent the tragedy that happened to your parents. You were demanding justice and attention, you were ready to communicate and get rid of all the problems peacefully.
And it is when government became a tyrant: firstly it ignored you, innocently pretending not to hear your pleas. But when you became more persistent, it became embittered and spiteful, it started endangering your life and liberty. But the constitution of our country states, that men are created with inherent and inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and governments are instituted to secure those rights, not to endanger them.
Your university became the symbol of the flower rebellion. You wanted to be free, to have freedom of choice - government rats locked your hands in handcuffs. You made a green park for people on university’s land – university together with police drowned you in gas.
You know, your mind is split in two halves: romanticism and realism. Just like in the romanticism époque, some of you tried to toss away the outer world, leaving only the inside. But others took in credo: “If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending – if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!”. You began a great and arduous struggle for liberty.
It was not easy, to continue fighting a war of inequality. But you did, you tried to break the system of American down, you tried to change the world, to break the wall, to understand the hidden meaning. And now, when I’m standing here in front of you, I understand you like no one ever did before – and I support you. Your fight is a brave fight. You are young now, and your hearts are easily flammable. I don’t know, what will happen to you and your courage in five, ten, fifteen years. But I know that if you save the flame in your heart, someday you will win. People that are born equal will remain equal for all their life, if you will find power and will to change and develop society. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death. Please, save those words in your mind. If there will be no “others”... But for now I say: farewell in your future that awaits. Everything is in your hands and all the powers of the world are waiting for you to come. And thank you for being here.