Most commencement addresses aren’t particularly memorable. Families and friends who gather to honor their high school or college graduates hope that the talk will be short so the ceremony can move on to the awarding of diplomas.
My dad, who was a pastor for a few years in Iowa, and Aulne, Kansas, used to jokingly tell new pastors at Parkview M.B. Church in Hillsboro where he attended, “If you can’t strike oil in 20 minutes, stop boring.” For commencement speakers, he’d probably recommend about 10-15 minutes.
When a politician, entertainer, or professional athlete gives a commencement address, it can quickly become a sideshow and controversial, regardless of the message.
For example, when Ivanka Trump gave an online commencement address at WSU Tech a few years ago during the COVID pandemic, an uproar ensued, not because she said anything controversial, but because her last name was Trump. Her short talk was standard fare, congratulating the grads for their accomplishments and wishing them the best as they faced the future.
This spring, two-time Super Bowl-winning kicker Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs dropped what he called “some hard truths” on graduates of Georgia Tech University, according to LifeSiteNews.
What he shared would likely have been considered rather dull or routine 50 years ago, but in today’s world, his comments raised a few eyebrows.
“Studies have shown that one of the many negative effects of the pandemic is that a lot of young adults feel a sense of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, despite technology that has connected us more than ever before,” said Butker. “It would seem the more connected people are to one another, the more they feel alone.
“I’m not sure the root of this, but at least I can offer one controversial antidote that I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come: Get married and start a family.
“Having kicked the game-winning field goal in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, I have received a great deal of praise for these successes. And yet all of this happiness is temporary. And the truth is, none of these accomplishments mean anything compared to the happiness I have found in my marriage, and in starting a family.
“My confidence as a husband and father, and yes, even as a football player is rooted in my marriage with my wife, as we leave our mark on future generations by the children we bring into the world. How much greater of a legacy can anyone leave than that?,” said Butker.
Butker, 27, the father to two young children, added that the wedding band he wears is the “most important ring” he owns, even more than his Super Bowl rings he earned as a teammate of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“While I’m still striving to be a better, more virtuous man, I’m confident that with God, and with my wife by my side, I can do more than I could ever have imagined alone,” said Butker.
Butker’s remarks sounded timely given current demographic trends.
According to The Federalist, “fewer than half of U.S. households are comprised of married couples. And the majority of those are households without children. In 2018, more than a third of Americans between the ages of 25 and 50 had never been married, and a quarter of young people may never marry in their lives.”
You could argue that Butker opened a can of worms. Marriage isn’t for everyone, and not everyone will have, want, or be able to have children. But clearly, if too many households are childless, there will be consequences for society down the road.
Butker’s comments might have gone unnoticed if he wasn’t a professional football player.
While most probably forgot the commencement message as soon as it ended, it was good for graduates to hear Butker’s message, that a strong marriage and family life can potentially bring more peace and joy than many of life’s so-called accomplishments.