“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.
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.
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.