Daniels: You make your luck

“Earned success” is the key to a fulfilling life, said Mitch Daniels, former Indiana governor and now Purdue president, in this year’s commencement speech at Purdue.

Mitch Daniels told Purdue graduations to own their achievements and failures.

Mitch Daniels told Purdue graduations to own their achievements and failures. Photo: Mark Simons/Purdue

One of the most dangerous ideas of our time is that “we are less masters of our fate than corks floating in a sea of luck,” Daniels said. “Or, even more absurd, that most of us are victims of some kind, and therefore in desperate need of others to protect us against a world of predators and against our own gullibility.”

Though “we all get important help along the way,” ultimately, “your successes, and your failures for that matter, are, like your diplomas today, really up to you,” he said.

That’s a very different message from the one President Obama stressed at Howard’s commencement, six days earlier, writes columnist George Will.

President Barack Obama told Howard graduates, "You didn't do nothing." Photo: Alex Getty

President Barack Obama told Howard graduates they’ve succeeded due to luck. “It wasn’t nothing you did.” Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Obama said: “Yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.”

Daniels conceded that luck plays a role, writes Will. However, except for “tragically bad luck,” it rarely “decides a life’s outcome.” People can improve their odds by making wise choices, Daniels said.

Daniels quoted Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” And movie pioneer Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” And Frederick Douglass: “We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is work.”

This year, “the presumptive Democratic nominee is a progressive committed to government ambitious enough to iron the wrinkles of luck out of life, and to distribute equity to life’s victims, meaning to everyone,” writes Will.  “The presumptive Republican nominee is a world-class whiner” who is telling Americans they’re victims.

“Daniels’ argument confuses what’s possible with what’s probable,” writes Eduwonk. Purdue graduates have the skills and credentials to make their own luck, for many born in poverty, economic mobility is a longshot.

Indiana OKs broad voucher bill

The nation’s most sweeping school voucher program — with tuition aid for low- and middle-income families — is now law in Indiana. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill today, along with another bill expanding charter schools.

Parents can choose to use vouchers at private schools that accept state regulation, including religious schools. As family income rises to $60,000 for a family of four, the voucher’s value will go down.

Other voucher systems across the country are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools.

Indiana’s program would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools. Indiana’s program will be limited to just 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 in the second, a fraction of the state’s about 1 million students. But within three years, there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

Indiana will save money on voucher students: Vouchers for elementary and middle school students are capped at $4,500 and no voucher will equal funding for public-school students.

According to Rick Hess, 60 percent of Indiana schoolchildren will be eligible for a voucher worth up to 90 percent of public education costs. The student must attend a year of public school to qualify for a voucher.

The bill also gives a $1,000 tax deduction for private-school tuition or the costs of homeschooling. That’s expected to cut revenues by $3 million.

While most choice advocates are celebrating, Cato’s Adam Schaeffer argues the law is a “strategic defeat for educational freedom” because it greatly expands state regulation of participating private schools.

To qualify for vouchers, schools will have to administer state exams and submit data on students’ progress, admit students by lottery and “provide good citizenship instruction” that stresses respecting authority, the property of others, the student’s parents and home, the student’s self and “the rights of others to have their own views and religious beliefs.”

What does this mean for religious private schools teaching that one can only be saved by belief in Jesus Christ?

Private schools that refuse to be regulated will risk losing most of their students,   Schaeffer writes.