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Opening Arguments

Can I get a group hug?

When the president speaks people listen -- two graduation speakers at Indiana State University catch the "You didn't build that" fever:

A federal judge and a newly minted nurse reminded Indiana State University graduates Saturday they didn't get where they are - and won't get where they're going - entirely on their own.

Craig McKee, a U.S. District Court magistrate and a 1979 Indiana State alumnus, recalled the recent passing of Neil Armstrong and how he neither sought nor welcomed attention after becoming the first man on the moon in 1969.

"He acknowledged over the 43 years he lived after that achievement that he relied on a network of others to enrich his individual success," McKee said. "The educated person understands that individual success is not up to him or her only."

[. . .]

Student speaker Brad Hobbs of Indianapolis, who completed a bachelor's degree in nursing, reminded fellow graduates that family, friends, faculty and staff "have many times given you a shoulder to lean on, and a hug when you've done well, and possibly a kick in the butt when you needed it most."

I think most of us can acknowledge that what people accomplish in life is a product both of their own efforts and talents and the support they receive from their network of friends, loved ones and institutional torch-passers. What we choose to emphasize when we talk about the pathway to success speaks volume. You may think my inclination to usually emphasize individual initiative  marks me as a libertarian caveman Neanderthal. I think this increasing emphasis on the group is an invitation to tyranny or, at best, the mediocrity of group think. What most of these "bow to your support group" types fail to realize is that all of us are both receivers and givers of aid and comfort. If I don't celebrate my accomplishments, I don't encourage others to celebrate theirs, ditto for them, and we sprial ever downward.