The University of Notre Dame is an excellent institution of higher learning. For decades it has stood unabashedly rooted in faith, while watching a faith based approach to life dwindle. It has set a high standard for its students, its sports programs and its faculty. Last week, over 3,000 students graduated from the University of Notre Dame. These students will join the workforce, attend graduate school, begin their careers, and will bring the lessons they learned at Notre Dame with them on their journey.
This year, Vice President Mike Pence was chosen by the university to be the commencement speaker. As Vice President Pence began his speech, over 100 graduates rose from their seats and walked from the stadium in protest.
Apparently looking for their “safe space” and not finding it among their fellow graduates, these students made the decision to leave. Recording themselves on their smartphones as they walked out, the “selfie” generation protesters got exactly what they wanted. Attention (and Facebook likes). As you look at their faces full of resolve, one can only wonder what will happen to them tomorrow. Today, they wear a cap and gown. Tomorrow, they join the workforce. Tomorrow, they will apply to a job and their resume will be bolstered by their diploma from Notre Dame. They will arrive on the job their first day, will be shown a desk and introduced to their co-workers. They will be given work assignments and will be assigned to projects and teams. They will attend meetings with coworkers, meetings with bosses, and meetings with clients.
This is not just a Notre Dame problem, but a problem with all college graduates who have spent the last four years sheltered in their “safe spaces”. If this attitude remains, one thing is guaranteed. Tomorrow, they will fail. They will fail, not based on a lack of knowledge or education, but because they could not learn in four years the very simplest of life lessons. They will fail because listening to others, even if you do not agree with their point of view, is necessary in life. They will fail because in life, your actions matter, how you handle yourself matters, and how you choose to approach adversity matters. In life you will probably disagree with more individuals than you agree with. It’s just how life works. You can’t walk away from them all. Even if you could, how can you expect others to listen to your opinions when you walk out on theirs?
How can you expect others to respect you when you don’t show respect?
What will these graduates do tomorrow when they disagree with a coworker or a boss? Tomorrow, they are no longer in college. They won’t have a “safe space” at work. They will have to communicate. They will have to be able to lose an argument and still go back to their desk and work just as hard. That’s life.
Before tomorrow, before starting in the workforce, I urge the Notre Dame walkouts to actually watch Mike Pence’s commencement speech. Even if he makes your blood boil, watch the speech. Even if you can’t stand him, watch the speech. Why? Let me give you one small humble piece of graduation advice. We don’t learn in this life by surrounding ourselves with people who share our viewpoints. We learn by allowing our own viewpoints to be challenged by those we may not agree with. You want to be recognized? You want respect? Respect is a currency. It is passed back and forth between people based upon behavior and credibility. You can’t demand respect. It’s earned through your actions, through your character and through your behavior. Watch the video.