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亿万富翁布隆伯格在莱斯大学的演讲重申诚信

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发表于 7-10-2018 12:19:31 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 黄河之水天上来 于 7-10-2018 12:28 PM 编辑

亿万富翁布隆伯格在莱斯大学的演讲重申诚信
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美国当地时间5月12日,美国纽约市前市长布隆伯格12日应邀出席2018年得州莱斯大学毕业典礼,就“诚实”的重要性发表主题演讲。讲话中,布隆伯格影射包括总统川普在内的华府政要“谎话连篇”,并警示美国民主制度在这样的政治环境下“岌岌可危”。


同时他还痛心疾首地表示,比目无法律的狡诈政客更危险的,只有一种人,那就是为虎作伥、捍卫他们每一句谎言的人。

12日上午,面对一众即将离开象牙塔的毕业生,布隆伯格重新提起了“华盛顿砍倒樱桃树”这个耳熟能详的故事(有证据显示,此故事为虚构)。讲毕,他反问道:“从一个不会说谎的总统到如今一群不会讲真话的政客,美国到底经历了些什么?”布隆伯格认为,美国现在的政治环境带有“极端的党派性”,分化程度达到了内战以来的最高点;在这样的大环境下,政治人士对党派的忠诚远胜于对事实真相的追求。他表示,在自己的一生当中,从未见过政治谎言在哪个时代比现在更盛行。

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布隆伯格称,在上世纪90年代,前总统克林顿因个人作风和谎言等问题受到系列指控,而民主党人则不计代价地予以维护;如今,共和党人的做法就好比当年民主党的“翻版”。以气候变化一事为例,绝大多数科学家均通过翔实的证据证明气候变化切实存在,而川普总统及其共和党同僚却屡次坚称所谓气候变化不过是美国境外敌对势力炮制的一个“骗局”。

他警告称,如此程度的“不诚实”将直接导致犯罪:“当选举产生的官员罔顾事实真相时,他们的所作所为就会超脱法律……也就是说,如果我们接纳这种不诚实,我们将得到恶行。这些恶行或为腐败,或为滥权,或两者兼具。”为证明自己的观点,他提到了“通俄门”调查一事,但并未展开细说,仅表示“很多人都被查了”。布隆伯格总结道,如今对美国民主体制构成最大威胁的,既不是境外势力、也不是某种对立的意识形态,而恰恰在于美国人对于不诚实的包容。

布隆伯格于2002年至2013年期间担任纽约市市长,并在2016年表露过以独立参选人身份竞选总统的意图,但之后转而支持希拉里。他是现任总统川普的反对者之一,曾当众指责川普是一个“骗子”以及“危险的煽动家”。《华盛顿邮报》称,川普自入主白宫以来,所发表过的不实或误导性言论超过3000条。不过在12日的讲话中,布隆伯格并未直接提及任何“谎言政客”的姓名。

谎言自然会带来恶果,然而过于“耿直”也并不一定是好事。白宫通讯联络室特别助理沙德勒,最近就因为一不小心说出心里话而惹上麻烦。9日,美国资深参议员麦凯恩发表声明,反对川普提名的哈斯佩尔担任中情局局长。对此,沙德勒在一次内部会议上表示:“没关系,反正他(麦凯恩)快死了。”这一发言被曝光后,引来强烈批评,麦凯恩家属和包括美国前副总统拜登以及南卡罗来纳州参议员格拉哈姆在内的名流,纷纷要求沙德勒和白宫道歉。

“以荣誉起誓,忠于事实。”在演讲的最后,布隆伯格对在场的年轻人如此寄语,因为「美国民主最大的威胁不是任何外部因素,而是我们自己」”

布隆伯格2018年莱斯大学毕业典礼演讲稿

校董会成员、教职人员、家长与家属们,大家早上好。能和你们一起,庆祝2018届学子的毕业,实属荣幸。让我们再一次将热烈的掌声送给他们。

今天,你们做好了走出校门的准备,谁又能预料,未来等待你们的是什么?

莱斯校友中出过诺贝尔奖得主、内阁成员、宇航员、行业翘楚、成就非凡的艺术家,以及各行各业的优秀人才,包括发现C60分子的两位科学家。

在此,我很高兴地告诉大家:2018届的毕业生中,有一人已经加入我的公司,至此,已经有13个「猫头鹰」(莱斯大学的吉祥物,也是人们对莱斯学子的昵称——译注)供职于彭博有限合伙企业(Bloomberg LP)。我尽了自己的一份力,我敢肯定,同样激动人心的规划正等着你们当中很多人,这再好不过。

但是,就算你们不知何去何从,也不要太过担心。让你们的父母去担心吧。今天的他们已经激动万分,但如果你们不搬回家里的地下室,他们就更开心了。

所以,让我们为所有的家长和家属们热烈鼓掌吧,是他们支持着你们,有了他们,才有了今天这一天!

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说回正题。在决定今天的演讲主题时,莱斯的一项传统在我脑中挥之不去。它是莱斯学生生活的重要组成部分。不,我说的不是「威利周」(Willy Week;莱斯大学开展庆祝活动、纪念创始人威廉·莱斯的一周)。我说的是荣誉守则。

初入校园时,在迎新周期间,你们上过一堂荣誉守则课。你们的第一场测验,检验的就是你们对荣誉守则的掌握程度。你们必须说出它讲了什么。所以今天,作为毕业生,你们若能有始有终,听我谈谈荣誉的意义,也颇合时宜。

不用担心,这次没有测验。但离开校园之后,你们将面临持续一生的考验。今天我要讲的,就是这个。但首先,我要讲讲荣誉的反面。

身为一名纽约人,我吃惊地得知,就在我的故乡,一场恶行差点将莱斯大学扼杀在摇篮里。当年,两名凶犯在莱斯大学创始人威廉·莱斯(William Marsh Rice)位于曼哈顿的家中,将莱斯谋杀,企图纂改他的遗嘱。事发地点距我的公司总部只有几个街区。

最后凶手被抓。而如莱斯所愿,他的钱捐建了大学。荣誉守则也应运而生,从此成为莱斯学生生活的核心。

从你们踏入校园的那一刻起,在递交每一张试卷、每一篇论文时,你们几乎都签署了一份声明,开头是「我以我的荣誉……」但你们可曾停下来想一想:这个短语究竟是什么意思?

古往今来,荣誉一词不断纳入新的含义:骑士精神、贞操、勇气、力量。当荣誉跟道德分道扬镳,或是与偏见沆瀣一气时,它又成为了谋杀、压迫与欺骗的借口。但荣誉的真髓,永远蕴含在这个单词之中。

语言学专业的同学可能知道,「honor(荣誉)」与「honest(诚实)」是一个硬币的两面。实际上,拉丁语中的「honestus」,就兼具「诚实」与「荣誉」两种含义。

要受人尊崇,你必须诚实。这包括言语的诚实,以及行动的诚实——哪怕你不得不承认过错,并承担后果。成为「猫头鹰」时,你们就担负起了诚实为人的责任。我相信,这也是一种爱国责任。

小时候,我们最早学到的美国历史故事之一,就是乔治·华盛顿和樱桃树的故事。“我不能说谎。”年幼的乔治告诉父亲,“是我砍的。”当然,这是一个传说,但它能一代又一代地流传至今,说明其中蕴含更大的真理。

樱桃树的故事之所以历久弥新,是因为其实它讲的不是乔治·华盛顿,而是美国这个国家。它讲的是我们对下一代的期望,以及在领导者身上,我们所看重的品质:诚实。

对于两位最伟大的美国总统——华盛顿和林肯,我们总是推崇备至。我们推崇的不仅仅是他们的成就,还有他们的诚实。他们的正直和品德,被我们视为美国荣誉的体现。

然而今天,放眼那座继承了华盛顿之名的城市,我们不禁疑惑:其间究竟发生了什么?

2016年,牛津英语词典评选出的年度单词是「post-truth(后事实)」。去年,又出现了新词「alternative facts(另一种事实)」。究其本质,两个词都是在说:黑白、真假都可颠倒,感受可以变成事实。

纽约州参议员帕特·莫伊尼汉(Pat Moynihan)是我的好朋友,他生前致力于跨党派合作。他曾说,“人可以有各自的意见,但不能有各自的事实。”在以前,这种说法毫无争议。
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但在如今的政坛,面对任何不利的信息,无论事实多么明确,政客们都会习惯性地斥之为不实信息,并习惯性地说一些明显可以证伪的话。世界各地的独裁政权这样做的时候,我们都嗤之以鼻,还以为那不是美国人的作风!

对我这代人来说,美国最简单的事实——我们所享有的自由、机遇和繁荣——是我们在冷战中最强大的优势。然而在今天的美国,很多最高权力的掌控者却将事实视为威胁。他们害怕事实,否认事实,并攻击事实。结果,我们现在面临的,是不诚实的疫气,以及谎言的枪林弹雨。

民选官员宣扬「另一种事实」,或对「另一种事实」的宣扬者睁一眼闭一眼。这种愈演愈烈的趋势,是民主国家面临的最大危险之一。自由社会的公民应该认识到,政府的谎言不能听之任之。自由社会能否维系,就仰赖公民的这种认识。

一位民选官员若在言谈之中,流露出其话语高于事实的意思,那他就会在实际行动中,将自己置于法律之上。容忍欺骗的后果,就是孳生犯罪。

这种犯罪的形式有时是腐败,有时是权力滥用。有时两者兼具。它若不受制衡,便会侵蚀保护我们权利与自由的体制,并向暴政与法西斯敞开大门。

听到这里,你也许会说:狡诈的政客永远都会存在,两党之内皆是如此。没错。但在如今的政界,狡诈得到的容忍度之高,是我有生以来未曾见过的。而我的岁数是美国年龄的三分之一。我知道,你们很难相信。我也是。但算一下就知道,事实的确如此。

过来人可以告诉你们:比目无法律的狡诈政客更危险的,只有一种人,那就是为虎作伥、捍卫他们每一句谎言的人。

请记住:莱斯大学的荣誉守则不仅仅要求你们诚实。它还要求你们在看到他人的不诚实行为时,勇敢地指出来。这或许是荣誉守则中最难的一部分,但或许也是最重要的,因为若是违反了这一点,受影响的是整个社群。

放之全美国,道理也是一样的。要让民选官员诚实待人,就必须让他们为不诚实的言行负责,否则就要承担后果。

请不要误会我的意思:你可以有异议,只要你是诚实的。这就是民主的精髓!但有益的辩论有一个前提,就是承认基本事实。

以科学为例:如果99%的科学研究都经过同行评审,围绕一种理论,得出了大体一致的结论,那么,我们就得承认,它是我们目前掌握的最可靠的信息——即使做不到100%的确定。

没错,气候变化只是一种理论,但引力也是一种理论。牛顿运动定律没有考虑电磁波速为常数;在物体快速移动时,爱因斯坦狭义相对论对运动的描述更加准确——但这些并不意味着,如果我现在放手,这支笔就不会往下掉。

毕业生们,这不是什么中国制造的骗局(特朗普曾在一篇推文中称,气候变化是中国炮制的骗局)。它叫科学——我们应该要求政客诚实地尊重科学。

一些联邦机构已经禁止雇员使用「气候变化」一词,说来让人难以置信。要是审查能解决问题,现在我们就会是苏联的一部分,而且被要求说俄语。

当然,存有怀疑、提出问题总是好事。但我们必须予以科学家必要的信任。如果你不愿意,那就不要坐飞机,不要使用手机或微波炉,不要去医院治病,更不要在Netflix上追剧。

科学发现已渗透入生活的方方面面,但在政治辩论中,往往是个例外。

当然,美国政坛的不诚实之风不仅仅是围绕科学。影响你们未来的最大问题当中,从优质岗位的缺乏,到枪支暴力的蔓延,再到经济和环境所受的威胁,很多都没有得到妥善应对——因为太多的政治领袖罔顾事实与数据,又有太多人姑息纵容这种现象。

我们是怎么走到这一步的?从当初绝不说谎的总统,到如今说不出真话的政客;从诚实化身乔治·华盛顿,到被谎言所定义的华盛顿特区——这其间发生了什么?

现在流行责怪社交媒体,怪它们传播虚假信息。比如我就完全相信,赛琳娜·戈麦斯(Selena Gomez)和贾斯汀·比伯(Justin Bieber)还在一起。但现在的问题并不仅仅是消息不可靠,而是说,凡是令对方难看的消息,公众就愿意,乃至急于去相信。这是极端的党派对立,它给眼下不诚实的风气煽风点火,并为之开脱。

极端的党派对立就像一场传染病。但它瘫痪的不是人的身体,而是精神。它阻碍了我们对彼方的理解,使我们看不到彼方理念中的优点——也看不到自己的缺陷。当己方阵营说谎,或是做出不道德举动时,我们就开始辩解或是开脱。
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例如上世纪90年代,整整十年时间里,民主党的领导者都在极力辩解,维护坐在椭圆形办公室里的那个人,否认有关说谎和个人道德问题的指控,还试图让那些女性发声者闭嘴,或质疑她们的可信度。与此同时,共和党的领导者则不断地攻击白宫的不道德与不诚实。

今天,角色彻底对调了——不是因为两党改变了信仰,而是因为另一个党入驻了椭圆形办公室。

如果你判断某项行为,根据的是行为者隶属于哪个政党,这就是对自己不诚实,也是对公众不诚实。但这种判断方式变得如此根深蒂固,很多人甚至浑然不觉——两党之内都有这种现象。

我知道,支持己方阵营是顺理成章之事,尤其当彼方是休斯顿大学美洲狮队的时候,但政治治理不同于比赛。

当人们将世界视为左右阵营的战斗时,他们会更加忠实于自己的阵营,而不是自己的国家。当权力——而非进步——成为争夺对象时,最先沦陷的就是真相与诚实。

在莱斯大学,你们明白了,诚实带来信任,信任带来自由,就像在课堂外接受检验的自由。民主体制内也是如此。对我们自己,以及整个国家而言,不诚实相待,彼此之间缺乏信任,就等于作茧自缚。

这终将导致僵局与国力的下降,但毕业生们,你们要知道一点:局面不一定非得如此。

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在纽约市任职时,我不关心某个主意是哪个党提出的;面试他人时,我也从来不问对方隶属于哪个政党,或将票投给了谁。于是,我们组建了一个由民主党、共和党和无党派人士构成的梦之队。这种多元性使我们的争论更加激烈,我们的政策更加明智,我们的政府更加高效。

争论的胜负取决于事实与数据,而非政党与民调。这是我们成功的原因。在美国各地,其他的市长也在采取同样的做法,这让人倍感欣慰。但在国家层面上,在今天的华盛顿特区,党派对立就是一切。我认为,它所制造出来的不诚实之风,是你们这代人不得不面对的最大挑战之一。

当然,党派之争不是什么新问题。乔治·华盛顿在告别演说中,就曾提醒大家予以警惕。他提到了「党派的危险性」,并称,人们对党派的狂热是民主「最大的敌人」,是暴政的先导。华盛顿敦促美国人「阻止与限制」党派之争。遗憾的是,近些年的局面与之恰好相反。

现在,我们举目四望,狂热不羁的党派对立随处可见。它不仅存在于社交媒体和电视新闻上,它还存在于我们所生活的越发红蓝分立的社区之中。我们加入的团体、社团和教会,都日益吸引着观点相仿之人。它甚至影响了我们跟谁结婚。

50年前,大多数家长都不关心子女的另一半是否属于另一个政党,只是不希望他们属于另一个种族或是宗教,也不希望他们属于同一性别。

如今,谢天谢地,民调显示,绝大多数人都支持跨种族、跨宗教和同性婚姻,这是进步。但令人遗憾的是,不希望子女跨政党结婚的父母比例翻了一番。人们越是按照政党彼此划清界限,就越难理解对方,每个政党也就越容易走向极端。

研究显示,与观念类似的人相处,会让人越来越极端。眼下,两党都出现了这种现象。如果说,美国正在经历内战以来两党对立最为严重的时期,我想应该也不为过。

1860年,南卡罗来纳州带头从联邦分裂出去。而四月份时,该州又引入一项决议,探讨脱离联邦事宜。我们很容易将其视为一种边缘观念,从而对其不屑一顾——但愿这种事永远不会成真。但在观念类似的群体中,边缘观念会以危险的速度积累势头。想想上世纪30年代的德国,大家就清楚了。

这种情况再持续下去,美国还会进一步分裂,那时,美国国歌也许可以改成泰勒·斯威夫特(Taylor Swift)的那首「我们永远永远永远不会复合」。

那么,为什么我要在你们离校之际,提起这个话题?

我希望,作为毕业生,你们能从艺术家Zedd、Maren Morris和Grey的一首歌中汲取灵感,歌中唱道:「为什么不能互相让步?我快要坚持不住」。

我知道,让美国重新团结起来,这是一项艰巨的任务。但我相信,这是可以实现的。若想继续成为真正的民主国家,我们就必须做到这一点,而且,这项事业将由你们这代人去领导。

毕业生们,你们已经准备好应对这一挑战。因为让美国重新团结起来的第一步,就是你们在莱斯大学学到的第一课:诚实很重要。每个人都有责任诚实待人。因此,在你们踏入社会的时候,我希望你们诚实为人。

要知道,正确的观念并不由哪个人、或哪个政党所垄断。判断一件事,要看事情本身,而不是看对方是何人。对于自己,以及这个国家的领导者,你们都要用最高的道德标准去要求。尊重科学家的知识。追随数据指引的方向,不管它指向哪里。倾听与你意见相左的人,而不是试图审查,或盖过他们的声音。要有勇气说出己方阵营不想听到的话。

昨天,我刚去亚利桑那州看望了我的一个朋友,正在跟脑癌抗争的参议员约翰·麦凯恩(John McCain),他的一生都展现出了这种勇气。

在一些问题上,我跟约翰常常意见相左,但我总是很钦佩他,因为当其他人不敢的时候,他也愿意向对方伸出橄榄枝。

他曾叫板自己政党的领袖,只为不昧良心;他曾捍卫对手的荣誉,即便因此损失了选票。他勇于承认错误,就像那个砍了樱桃树的小男孩。

试想,如果更多的民选官员有这种勇气,敢于捍卫荣誉,就像约翰·麦凯恩在战场上、在华盛顿和在个人生活中展现出来的那样,美国将是怎样一种面貌?
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毕业生们,过了今天,你们将不再受到莱斯荣誉守则的约束。你们将如何度过这一生,如何遵循自己的荣誉守则,这些问题,将由你们自己来决定。

这所大学给了你们一个特殊的机会,去学习荣誉的真正含义,并以此作为荣誉守则的根基。我相信,你们有义务将其坚持下去:在职场,在社区,在政治讨论中;是的,也在投票站内。因为,美国民主最大的威胁不是任何外部因素,而是我们自己为了政党利益、为了追逐权力,不惜牺牲诚实。

最后一点:我们都能背诵《独立宣言》的开头:我们认为这些真理不言而喻……

但请记住,国父们之所以能赋予这些真理生命力,原因只有一个,它就藏在独立宣言的最后一句中:“以我们的生命、我们的财产和我们神圣的名誉,彼此宣誓。”

以荣誉起誓,忠于事实,是我们走到今天这一步的原因。为了保护那些真理,以及它赋予我们的权利,每一代人都必须作出同样的承诺。现在,轮到你们了。

刚刚,我跟李伯隆校长说,我想给莱斯大学捐点东西。他的眼睛瞬间亮了!不过我说,“不是捐钱。”我想捐一颗樱桃树,种在这座校园里,然后立一块牌子,写上「以2018届学子的名誉」。

当你们重返校园,经过这棵树时,我希望,你们能记得它的由来,以及它对我们伟大的国家意味着什么。每个人在一生中,都会时不时砍倒一颗樱桃树,每当这时,请勇敢承认,并以同样的标准,要求那些代表我们的人。

毕业生们,这场庆祝是你们努力的结果。今晚,最后去吃一次蜂蜜黄油鸡肉汉堡吧(莱斯大学位于德克萨斯州,这是当地汉堡品牌Whataburger的一款汉堡);明天,无论走到哪里,都记得带上这座伟大学府的价值观。

你们不会后悔的。我以我的名义向你们保证。

祝贺你们,加油,猫头鹰们!
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Now, the truth be told, I almost didn’t make it here this morning. I drove over to the campus bright and early, but I spent hours looking for a parking spot. I finally found one at Rice Village Apartments. Probably already got a ticket, and had to get a ride from there to here. And when I accepted this invitation, I told President Leebron for me to impart any useful advice, I really had to get a feel for what it was like to be a student here. So when I did arrive last night in Houston, I went straight to Whataburger and ordered a honey butter chicken biscuit.

No wonder LPAP, the physical education class is an undergraduate requirement. But then I needed something to wash it down. Unfortunately, I only had some loose change left, so I walked over to Valhalla for a Lone Star. I got some dirty looks there, they must’ve thought I was an undergrad. After that, I snuck into the football stadium, I made the frog wall croak, I even climbed to the top of the famous statue right here in this quad and took a selfie, #William Bloomie.

But it’s been great to know the campus and also to see some off-campus spots, like Brown College. And it was fun to learn about the rivalry among the residential colleges here. On the count of three, let me hear you yell out which residential college is the best, ready? One, two, three.

I think it’s a tie, except for Martel, everyone knows that’s not a college. I have enjoyed getting to know what it’s like to be an Owl. I’m just sorry that I have to leave today because I was looking forward to participating in an important Rice tradition that takes place on the 13th of every month, The Baker 13th. Parents, if you don’t know what it is, don’t ask unless you want the naked truth.

I was also sorry to have missed Beer Bike. I actually spent months training for it, but then I got here and found out my workouts should’ve been focused on biking instead of chugging. I thought that was funnier than you did. And I regret that I wasn’t here for last year’s snowstorm that had everyone going crazy. It was only two inches, come on! Maybe a snowstorm is the only thing that’s not bigger in Texas. Well, anyways, you survived it, and you’ve also made it through a few jacks by other residential colleges, and shared a few nights of decadence, and I don’t mean Cinnamon Roll Wednesdays.

But all of you know the history, and today, we’re ready to go beyond the hedges. And who knows what the future holds for you. Rice alumni have been Nobel Prize winners, cabinet members, astronauts, titans of industry, award-winning artists, and everything in between, including two scientists who discovered Buckyballs. For the record, their discovery was not made during a Baker 13.

And I’m glad to say that, once again, I’m glad to say that one member of the Class of 2018 has already begun working for my company, bringing the total number of Owls at Bloomberg LP to 13. So I’m doing my part, and many of you have similar exciting plans lined up, I’m sure, and that’s great. But if you don’t yet know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. Leave that to your parents. As excited as they are today, they’ll be even more excited if you don’t have to move back home into their basement. So let’s give them a big round of applause to all the parents and families who’ve made this day possible.

Now, for the serious stuff.

When I was deciding what I really wanted to say today, I kept thinking about a Rice tradition that’s an incredibly important part of student life here. No, I’m not talking about Willy Week. I’m talking about the Honor Code. When you first arrived on campus for O-week, you attended a presentation on the Honor Code. On your very first quiz, testing your knowledge of that code, you had to say what it was about, and so today, I thought it would be fitting for you as graduates to end your time here the same way you began it: by hearing a few words about the meaning of honor.

Don’t worry, there’s no quiz involved. But there will be a test when you leave this campus. One that will last for the rest of your life. And that’s what I want to explain today. And it actually starts with the opposite of honor.

As a New Yorker, I was surprised to learn that an act of dishonor in my hometown almost blocked Rice from coming into existence. William Marshall Rice was murdered at his home in Manhattan, just a few blocks from my company’s headquarters, by two schemers who tried to re-write his will.

They were caught, his money went where he wanted it to go, the university was built, and fittingly, an honor code was created that has been central to student life here from the beginning. And ever since you arrived here on campus, on nearly every test and paper you submitted, you signed a statement that began, “On my honor.”

But have you ever stopped to think what the phrase really means?

The concept of honor has taken on different meanings throughout the ages: civalry [chivalry], chastity, courage, strength. And when divorced from morality, or attached to prejudice, honor has been used to justify murder, and repression, and deceit.

But the essence of honor has always been found in the word itself.

And those of you who majored in Linguistics probably know, the words honor and honest are two sides of the same coin. In fact, the Latin word “honestus” can mean both honest and honorable. To be honorable, you must be honest. And that means speaking honestly, and acting honestly, even when it requires you to admit wrongdoing and suffer the consequences.
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The commitment to honesty is a responsibility that you accepted as an Owl. It is also, I believe, a patriotic responsibility. As young children, one of the first things we learned about American history is the story of George Washington and the fallen cherry tree.

“I cannot tell a lie,” young George tells his father. “I cut it down.”

That story is a legend, of course. But legends are passed down from generation to generation because they carry some larger truth. The cherry tree legend has endured because it’s not really about George Washington. It is about us, as a nation. It is about what we want for our children, and what we value in our leaders: honesty.

We’ve always lionized our two greatest presidents, Washington and Lincoln, not only for their accomplishments, but also for their honesty. We see their integrity and morals as a reflection of our honor as a nation.

However, today, when we look at the city that bears Washington’s name, it’s hard not to wonder: What the hell happened?

In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year was post-truth. Last year brought us the phrase, alternative facts. In essence, they both mean up can be down, black can be white, truth can be false, feelings can be facts.

A New York Senator known for working across the aisle, my old friend Patrick Moynihan, once said: “People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts”. That didn’t used to be a controversial statement.

Today, those in politics routinely dismiss any inconvenient information, no matter how factual, as fake, and they routinely say things that are demonstrably false. When authoritarian regimes around the world did this, we scoffed at them. We thought the American people would never stand for that.

For my generation, the plain truth about America, the freedom, opportunity, and prosperity that we enjoyed, was our most powerful advantage in the Cold War. The more the communists had access to real news, the more they would demand freedom. We believed that, and we were right.

Today, though, many of those at the highest level of power see the plain truth as a threat. They fear it, they deny it, and they attack it, just as the communists once did. And so here we are, in the midst of an epidemic of dishonesty, and an endless barrage of lies.

The trend towards elected officials propagating alternate realities, or winking at those that do is one of the most serious dangers facing democracies. Free societies depend on citizens, who recognize that deceit in government isn’t something to just shrug your shoulders at. When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law. And when we tolerate dishonesty, we get criminality. Sometimes, it’s in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it’s abuse of power. Sometimes, it’s both.  If left unchecked, these abuses can erode the institutions that protect and preserve our rights and freedoms, and open the door to tyranny and fascism.

Now, you might say, there’s always been deceitful politicians and dishonest politicians in both parties, and that’s true. But there is now more tolerance for dishonesty in politics than I’ve seen in my lifetime. And I’ve been alive for one-third of the time the United States has existed. I know, you find that hard to believe. So do I, but if you do the math, that’s what it is. My generation can tell you, the only thing more dangerous than dishonest politicians who have no respect for the law, is a chorus of enablers who defend their every lie.

Remember the Honor Code here at Rice – remember the Honor Code here at Rice just doesn’t require you to be honest. It requires you to say something if you saw others acting dishonestly. Now that might be the most difficult part of the Honor Code, but it may also be the most important, because violations affect the whole community.

And the same is true in our country. If we want elected officials to be honest, we have to hold them accountable when they are not, or else suffer the consequences. Now, don’t get me wrong. Honest people can disagree. That’s what democracy is all about. But productive debate requires an acception [acceptance] of basic reality.

Take science for example. If 99% of scientists whose research has been peer-reviewed reach the same general conclusion about a theory, then we ought to accept it as the best available information even if it’s not a 100% certain.

Take climate change for example. Climate change is only a theory, just like gravity is only a theory. And the fact that Newton’s theory of motion didn’t take into account Maxwell’s observations on the speed of electromagnetic waves as a constant and that Einstein’s special theory of relativity describes motion better than Newton did when things move very fast. That doesn’t mean that if I let this pen go, it won’t fall. That’s not, graduates, a Chinese hoax. It’s called science, and we should demand that politicians have the honesty to respect it.

Hard though it is to believe, some federal agencies have actually banned their employees from using the phrase climate change. If censorship solved problems, today, we’d all be part of the old USSR, and the Soviets would have us speaking Russian.

Of course, it’s always good to be skeptical and ask questions. But we must be willing to place a certain amount of trust in the integrity of scientists.

If you aren’t willing to do that, don’t get on an airplane, don’t use a cell phone or microwave, don’t get treated in a hospital, and don’t even think about binge-watching Netflix.

Scientific discovery permeates practically every aspect of our lives, except, too often, our political debates.

The dishonesty in Washington isn’t just about science, of course. We weren’t tackling so many of the biggest problems that affect your future, we aren’t, from the lack of good jobs in many communities, to the prevalence of gun violence, to the threats to the economy and threats to the environment because too many political leaders are being dishonest about facts and data, and too many people are letting them get in the way.

So how did we get here? How did we go from a President who could not tell a lie to politicians who cannot tell the truth? From a George Washington who embodied honesty, to a Washington, D.C. defined by deceit?

It’s popular to blame social media for spreading false information. I for one am totally convinced that Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber are still dating.

But the problem isn’t just unreliable stories. It’s also the public’s willingness, even eagerness, to believe that anything that paints the other side in a bad light. That’s extreme partisanship, and that’s what’s fueling and excusing all this dishonesty.

Extreme partisanship is like an infectious disease. But instead of crippling the body, it cripples the mind. It blocks us from understanding the other side. It blinds us from seeing the strengths in their ideas and the weaknesses of our own. And it leads us to defend or excuse lies and unethical actions when our own side commits them.
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For example: In the 1990s, leading Democrats spent the decade defending the occupant of the Oval Office against charges of lying and personal immorality, and attempting to silent and discredit the women who spoke out. At the same time, leading Republicans spent that whole decade attacking the lack of ethics and honesty in the White House.

Today, those roles are exactly reversed, not because the parties have changed their beliefs, but because the party occupying the Oval Office has changed.

When someone’s judgment about an action depends on the party affiliation of the person who committed it, they’re being dishonest with themselves and with the public. And yet, those kinds of judgments have become so second nature that many people, in both parties, don’t even realize that they are making them.

Now, I know it’s natural to root for your own side, especially when the other side is the Houston Cougars. But governing is not a game. When people see the world as a battle between left and right, they become more loyal to their tribe than to our country. When power not progress becomes the object of the battle, truth and honesty become the first casualties.

You learned here at Rice that honesty leads to trust, and trust leads to freedom, like the freedom to take tests outside the classroom. In democracy, it’s no different. If we aren’t honest with one another, if we don’t trust one another, then we place limits on what we ourselves can do, and what we can do together as a country. It’s a formula for gridlock and national decline, but graduates, here’s the thing: It does not have to be that way.

When I was in city government, I didn’t care which party proposed an idea. I never once asked anyone his or her party affiliation during a job interview, or who they voted for. As a result, we had a dream team of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

That diversity made our debates sharper, our policies smarter, and our government better. Arguments were won and lost on facts and data, not parties and polls. That was why we had success. And it’s been great to see other mayors around the country taking the same kind of approach.

But at the national level, Washington today, partisanship is everything. And I think the dishonesty that it produces is one of the greatest challenges that your generation will have to confront.

Of course, partisanship is not a new problem. George Washington actually warned against it in his Farewell Address.

He referred to the dangers of parties, and called the passion that people have for our parties, quote, “the worst enemy of democracy”, a precursor to tyranny. Washington urged Americans, to quote, “discourage and restrain partnership”. Sadly, in recent years, the opposite has happened. There is now unrestrained, rabid partisanship everywheres we look.

It’s not just on social media and cable news. It’s in the communities where we live, which are becoming more red and more blue. It’s in the groups and association and churches we join, which increasingly attract like-minded people. It is even in the people we marry.

Fifty years ago, most parents didn’t care whether their children married a member of another political party, but they didn’t want them marrying outside their race or religion, or inside their gender.

Today, thankfully, polls show a strong majority support for inter-racial, inter-religious, and same-sex marriage and that is progress. But unfortunately, the percentage of parents who don’t want their children marrying outside their political party has doubled.

And the more people segregate themselves by party, the harder it becomes to understand the other side, and the more extreme each party grows. Studies show that people become more extreme in their views when they are grouped together with like-minded people. And that’s now happening in both parties. As a result, I think it’s fair to say this country is more divided by party than it has ever been since the Civil War.

Last month, legislators in South Carolina, which was the first state in the Union to secede back in 1860, introduced a resolution that contemplated a debate on secession. Now, it’s easy to dismiss that as a fringe idea, and let’s hope it never happens. But in like-minded groups, fringe ideas can gather momentum with dangerous speed.

Just remember Germany in the late 1930s. If that continues to happen here, America will become even more divided, and our national anthem may as well become the Taylor Swift song: We are never, ever, ever, getting back together.

So why do I bring this up as you finish your time at this great university? Well, I’m hoping you graduates will draw more inspiration from a song by a different artist: Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey: Why don’t they just meet in the middle? I’m losing my mind just a little.

Now bringing the country back together, I know, won’t be easy. But I believe it can be done, and if we are to continue as a true democracy, it must be done, and it will be up to your generation to lead it.

Graduates, you are ready for this challenge, because bringing the country back together starts with the first lesson that you learned here at Rice: Honesty matters, and everyone must be held accountable for being honest.

So as you go out into the world, I urge you to do what honesty requires. Recognize that no one person, nor either party, has a monopoly on good ideas.  Judge events based on what happened, not who did it. Hold yourself and our leaders to the highest standards of ethics and morality. Respect the knowledge of scientists. Follow the data, wherever it leads. Listen to people you disagree with, without trying to censor them or shout over them. And have the courage to say things that your own side doesn’t want to hear.

I just came yesterday from visiting an old friend in Arizona, who has displayed that kind of courage throughout his life: Senator John McCain, who is currently fighting brain cancer.

Now, John and I often don’t see eye-to-eye on issues. But I’ve have always admired his willingness to reach across the aisle, when others wouldn’t dare. He bucked party leaders when his conscience demanded it. He defended the honor of his opponents, even when it cost him votes. And he owed up to his mistakes, just like that young kid with the cherry tree.

Imagine what our country would be like, if more of our elected officials had the courage to serve with the honor that John has always shown on the battlefield, in Washington, and in his personal life.

Graduates, today, you will no longer be bound by the Rice Honor Code. It will be up to you to decide how to live your life, and to follow your own honor code.

This university has given you a special opportunity to learn the true meaning of honor to base that new code on. And now, I believe, you have a special obligation to carry it forward, into your work places, your communities, your political discussions, and yes, into the voting booth, because the greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism or jihadism, or any other external force or foreign power. It is our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.

So, let me leave you with one final thought. We can all recite the inspiring words that begin the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident...”

But remember the Founding Fathers were able to bring those truths to life only because of the Declaration’s final words: “We mutually pledge to each other, our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”

That pledge of honor, and that commitment to truth, is why we are here today. And in order to preserve those truths, and the rights they guarantee us, every generation must take that same pledge, and now it’s your turn.

Earlier today, I told President Leebron that I’d like to make a donation to Rice. His eyes lit up. But I said, no, not a financial donation. I told him I’d like to donate a cherry tree to be planted here on campus with a plaque that reads: In Honor of the Class of 2018.

And when you come back as alumni, if you pass by the tree, I hope you’ll remember why it’s there, and what it represents to our great country. And throughout your life, when you chop down a cherry tree, as we all do from time to time, admit it, and demand nothing less from those who represent us.

Graduates, you have earned this great celebration. So tonight, have one last honey butter chicken biscuit. And tomorrow, carry the values of this great university with you, wherever you go. You will never regret it. I make that pledge to you on my honor.

Congratulations and go Owls!

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