EYE ON WASHINGTON | The West Point Commencement Address I Would Have Given

Hello, West Point!

(Allow applause to die down.)

(What, no applause?)

(Try not to look so surprised. They’re waiting for the president.)

Wow do your futures look bright!  You’re graduating from college, and you’ve already got a job!  And no student loans!

(Cheers and shouts of “Hooah!”)

Remember that old recruiting ad?  “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines: It’s a great place to start.”  So true.  Why?  Transferable skills.  (Not grammar.)

When the day comes that you leave the Army and return to civilian life – yeah, yeah, I know, here you are graduating and I’m talking about that time in the future when you have to choose your own clothes, but let’s face it, you can’t stay in the military for the rest of your life … unless … um …  well …

Anywho … when you do leave the Army, wow will you have opportunities!  It is a great place to start!

Now you’ve probably heard some folks say that your futures are under THREAT!  What is this CREDIBLE THREAT to your future opportunities?

No, it’s not Al Qaeda, insurgents, or budget-cutting Tea Partiers.

It’s privatization.

(Make a scary sound: oooooooo.)

Yep, privatization.  The fearmongers seem to be under the impression that the Pentagon and Congress are selling you out to a bunch of scheming mountebanks by privatizing so many of the jobs that had once made the military such “a great place to start.”  As if it’s part of some fiendish master plan to trade technology and logistics jobs and whatever for campaign donations and a twirl of the revolving door.  These critics clearly hate America.  It’s so tiresome to listen them ask: “How will the Army recruit or retain our talented youth if the only thing you get to do is shoot at people?”

(The audience is booing the critics, not you.) (Right?)

I know!  How dare they besmirch the good name of this great nation’s esteemed defense contractors like that?

These critics, who are obviously radical extremists, clearly don’t understand the New Economy.  There’s nothing wrong with shooting at people.

I am here today to tell you this: shooting at people is a great transferable skill!

Want proof?

The private security field is hot and growing hotter worldwide, what with all the instability caused by the arrival of climate change and, well, the United States military.  Talk about a growth industry!  They want you!

Or if you’d feel more comfortable behind a badge, I’ve got great news.  The police forces of America are getting more and more militarized.  Wanna drive a tank?  Become a cop!  And if you’re worried that you won’t get to shoot at people as often as you’d like, never fear: the nation’s biggest law enforcement agency is hiring.  Protect the nation from the invading hordes of wannabe taxpayers: The Border Patrol wants you!

Or, better yet, go where the real money is.  Sign up with a defense contractor!

You’ll never make less than six figures, and you’ll be doing exactly the same thing you would have done in uniform had the contractors not stolen all those jobs.  Only you’ll cost the taxpayer more to do it!  Yippee!

If you retire as a general, you can join a board of directors and get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just for calling up your old buddies at the Pentagon to play golf.

Or if you sign up sooner, and you work really hard, with the values that West Point has instilled in you, and if you’re really lucky, you might just rise to the top.  Know how much money the CEO of Lockheed Martin makes every year?  Thirty million dollars.  Every year! Almost entirely on government contracts.  Which makes it public service!

What a way to serve your country, in style.

Shooting at people is a transferable skill.  Of course it is.  It’s so obvious.  What does it take to effectively persuade a bunch of eighteen-year-olds to shoot at people?  Leadership. Tough-mindedness.  Decision-making.  You’ll learn these in today’s increasingly privatized Army.

You’ll learn how to navigate overly complex and bloated bureaucracies.  You’ll learn how to fight off doubts that what you are doing may not be quite what was advertised.   You’ll learn how to obey orders without question, even if they are stupid and possibly illegal.

The perfect transferable skills for Corporate America!

Yes, Corporate America wants you!  They want to say thanks for all the work you’ll be doing for them in the Army after you graduate today.  You’ll thrive!

Firing people?  That’s nothing after you’ve fired at people.

So congratulations, graduates.  Don’t listen to the critics.  They’re obviously jihadists.  Be all that you can be.  And don’t get killed.


Jeremiah Goulka is a writer based in Washington, DC.  Before he couldn’t stand it any longer, he worked at two federal agencies and a prominent think-tank.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website www.jeremiahgoulka.com.


Jeremiah Goulka
Jeremiah Goulka is a writer based in Washington, DC. Before he couldn’t stand it any longer, he worked at two federal agencies and a prominent think-tank. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.

One Reply to “EYE ON WASHINGTON | The West Point Commencement Address I Would Have Given”

  1. Lovely rousing speech. Hope that at least a few of the grads were paying attention (and that no one was aiming at you, for practice, you know).

    Ever read the scathing comments about and appraisal of West Point by Gore Vidal (whose dad was at one point its commandant)? Also amusing.

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