Robert McFarland Addresses LETU Graduates About Political Apathy
Sat, Dec 13 2008
Commencement address by Robert McFarland at LETU Dec. 13, 2008:
It is an honor to be asked to address this body today. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to acknowledge how truly blessed I have been to have experienced all that I have. God has truly shined down on me throughout my life. I know today we have both Traditional and Adult graduates in attendance. I am an Adult later-in-life graduate and am very thankful for the fine program offered by this university that allowed me to complete my degree. For me, it was truly unfinished business and a significant matter of pride.
Most speeches given on these Commencement occasions urge and implore you to go forth in the world and be successful, make a contribution, find your calling, give back, etc. etc. Those are certainly things you will need to contemplate as you go forward. However, I expect there will be many people reminding and pushing you toward those ends. I am going to implore you toward a different issue today. An issue you probably currently share in common with a majority of the U.S. population. That issue is APATHY. Webster defines apathy as “lack of interest and indifference”……
Good grief, you say…. apathy toward what?
Well, how about apathy toward the political process….
Oh no, you say…. Here comes some jerk about to espouse some partisan political rhetoric.
NO, to the contrary, this speech is not about Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Greens or any other political organization. What this speech is about is turning away from your probable apathy of all things political and becoming involved. That is taking responsibility for the actions of your local and national elected officials.
I would be safe to place a large bet that 95% of you in this audience don’t know how your congressman or senator voted on issues such as the Financial Bailout, Immigration Reform, Earmarks, and a host of other legislation put forth in Washington DC. So what, you say…. Why do I need to know about how the politicians voted? You need to know now more than ever because if you don’t know you don’t have a clue to what is happening to your liberties which have been bought and paid for with the lives of so many in past conflicts since the American Revolution.
Today, more than ever, your individual rights, freedoms and American values are at risk and all things that surround your rights and liberties are being decided by a majority of elected officials who are “self centered” and feeding daily at the federal trough. Most of these elected officials only care about being continuously re-elected and gathering influence in their respective seats of power. It’s not 100% their fault. We put them there and then do nothing to keep them on the straight and narrow! They campaign and tell you things they think you want to hear and then go do only that which benefits their own position. We have people in both the House and Senate who have never held a real job for any length of time or worked at a trade, much less gained any experience in business, finance or industry. They are professional politicians. And therein lies the danger!
They daily spend your hard-earned tax dollars on bridges to nowhere and museums to Woodstock. I remember taking a trip to a VA hospital in West Virginia and traveling on a 14-mile stretch of beautifully paved multi-lane highway out in the remote West Virginia countryside. There was no town or settlement neither at the beginning nor at the end of this stretch, and we hardly saw another car while we traveled these remote roads. I asked the driver how such a fine piece of roadwork came to such a remote location. He said that Senator Robert Byrd just took some extra federal highway money and had it built! First thing I thought was, Man, could we have used those 14 miles to relieve some traffic congestion between Dallas and Longview or Dallas and Austin.
As many of you know, I spent about 3 years in Washington D.C. serving in the Administration at the Department of Veterans Affairs. While there, I saw firsthand how your government and your elected officials waste tax dollars. If you really knew how badly your government is run, you would be inclined to not pay your taxes! I saw the effects of lobbying and political contributions that buy votes to benefit only the few. It would turn the stomach of most of you in this audience, but it is the accepted process in Washington and State Capitols around the USA.
So here I stand, ranting on about our government and our elected officials and imploring you to get involved. You’re probably saying, “How in the world can I make a difference? And so what? It’s been this way for decades.”
Well, that’s the problem! My generation has done nothing to hold our leaders accountable and the result is that we are now on the precipice of losing our basic rights: the right to keep most of our hard earned dollars, rights to serve the God we chose in the way we chose, rights to a secret ballot in labor elections, rights to be rewarded on our merits and even the right to celebrate Christmas and the Savior this country was founded on. If you and future graduates and your friends and families don’t step up to action where my generation has failed, we will soon lose a large part of our freedoms and our right to govern ourselves.
OK! So you may have decided to humor me and accept that things are getting to a state of ridiculous regarding our representation in our government. So just what can you, the individual, do about this problem? To start, you can commit yourself to not being politically apathetic.
Be knowledgeable and involved.
· Know your own elected officials
· Become familiar with how they vote on issues
· Call their offices and voice your opinions on the issues of the day and tell them how you want them to vote.
· When they don’t vote the way you expect them to vote, voice your dissatisfaction both verbally and in writing.
· Always – always vote in general and local elections
· Talk to the staff people who work for your elected officials. Most of the time, they are whom you will get when you call. Let them know your opinions.
· Let the elected official and their staffs know that you will not vote for and continue to support someone who won’t represent your values.
· Support local and national efforts to install term limits so we can dissolve this business of professional politicians. The elected crew in Washington will never-ever vote themselves into limited terms in office.
All the information you need to do these things is available to you on the Internet and Google. You just have to commit to not being apathetic.
Each of you can make a difference and turn this political process around and back to where our forefathers designed it. Look at Barack Obama, whether you agree with him or not isn’t the issue. What he proved was that he could get enough people involved to get past a “shoe-in” candidate in Hillary Clinton and then blast past a hopelessly confused and divided Republican party. If someone had predicted this election 3 years ago – they would have been laughed out of town. Grass roots action starts with just a couple of people. Make political acumen part of your lifestyle, your persona. Encourage others to become just as active. Once you get involved, you will find it fascinating to watch and a process worth your participation.
I suspect that most, if not all, of you in this audience are of the more conservative persuasion, given this institution, its surroundings and philosophy and our belief in God.
Your belief in God first, sanctity of the family, self-determination and a keen sense of respect for your fellow man, probably guide you on a daily basis.
YOUR values, conservative values, are under attack in this current day and age. You have the most to lose! But even if you lean to the middle or even to the more liberal side, your fundamental rights are being decided daily by corrupt and inept political figures. You have to get involved to turn this tide.
I have long believed in the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves.”
God has always allowed us the benefit of thinking for ourselves and influencing our own outcomes. We cannot expect God to just divinely clean up this political corrupt mess and take care of our oncoming problems. If that were the case we may not have a United States of America. Our Founders took guidance from God and fought to give us this nation and its individual freedoms.
Step up! Take action… become one of those citizens that insures that this nation stays the greatest nation on earth. You can and will make a difference.
This address has probably seemed a bit shocking to you and maybe even a little pessimistic. I meant it to be that way in hopes of arousing your patriotism and enlisting a call to action. It is needed now to ensure that my grandchildren and you and your children can be promised the opportunity and optimism this country has to offer.
Thank you for listening to an old soldier who still believes in God, country, honor and family and still thinks it admirable to do so. Good luck and God bless you and keep you.