Ralph Nader's Speech at
St. Cloud State University, Minnesota
Wednesday, January 31, 2001

For $120 billion a year, we can abolish poverty in the world. Actually, the U.N. has
fleshed out those figures, and they say, for example, for $30 billion a year you can get all
the children immunized, you can have clean drinking water, and you can have minimum
diet, in terms of calories. It's not being done. There is some advance in the last 10 years
through Unicef programs for cutting the death toll from measles. Malaria, however - it
still takes 700,000 children's lives in Africa every year, and over two million around the
world. Two million lives around the world lost to malaria, and it's increasingly
manifesting itself in drug resistant strains. There is no vaccine yet. The U.S. spent $47
million researching malaria last year. The U.S. government spent a billion and a half
dollars last year subsiding the marriage of Lockheed and Martin Marietta. The U.S.
government spent last year $6 billion of your money subsidizing private corporate
weapons exports, presumably to improve our balance of payments: jet planes, tanks,
landmines, anti-personnel weapons. What I'm describing is that we've got a lot of
solutions to the world's problems, some of them stunningly inexpensive - especially
when you work the prevention area instead of trying to deal with the cure. Whether it's
illiteracy, food production - The Sudan alone, in the 1950s, was believed to be able to
feed all of Africa - just the agrarian areas of the Sudan. So obviously we're not very well
organized as a human species.

As a matter of fact, animals are far better organized for survival than human beings. Why
are animals more rational, less likely to destroy their own ecology, and less likely to
make war on each other, and less likely to engage in zero sum games, and less likely to
addict one another, less likely to let their young starve - and they're supposed to be
stupid! Animals. Does anybody here think that animals, in terms of the long-range
survival are less smart than human beings? Just think about it - We're outsmarting
ourselves.

We're outsmarting ourselves in ways that render us powerless. There's the key here to
the rise of a just global society - it's the feeling of powerlessness by people who think
that the problems are overwhelming, the problems are beyond their reach, and they don't
have any power to do anything about it, even if they weren't overwhelming or beyond
their reach. Now, historically, there were people in generation after generation that
rejected that viewpoint, which is why we're here today. They said, "No, these problems
are not overwhelming." And periodically in our own country we solved huge problems.
We solved the problem of millions of GIs getting out of WWII without the money to go
to college by appropriating billions of dollars to give them the tuition to go to college,
called the GI Bill of Rights. We solved a good deal of the problem - not all of it by a
long shot - of impoverished elderly Americans with Social Security and Medicare. We
provided the wherewithal for self-powered ascension into the middle class in by
facilitating workers forming trade unions in the industrial early age in our country, so that
they went from starvation wages and dangerous workplaces in the steel, auto, coal and
other industries into decent standards and working standards, by comparison, and
adequate working standards in terms of their wages and their benefits. We took care of
slavery with the abolition movement, which culminated in the Civil War - which wasn't
entirely about slavery, but significantly. Women got the right to vote because enough
women hit the streets and started protesting and canvassing, even though they were often
dragged away by police and put in jail and spat on. What's wrong with us today? Do
you know any mass movement today for justice, other than animal rights?

Do you know any mass movement to deal with 20% child poverty - the highest percent in
the Western world, by far? In Sweden, it's below the scale. It's below 2%. There are
countries in Western Europe out of the rubble of WWII in the 50s and 60s that gave
everyone in their society the following rights that we do not have today in the year 2000
in the biggest, richest economy in the world. They essentially abolished child poverty,
with a safety net. They provided everyone with universal health care coverage. They
provided adequate public transit, so if you didn't have a car you could still get from point
A to point B, and not get lost in traffic and lose half your life just bumper to bumper.
They gave their workers far easier rights to form trade unions than our obstructive labor
laws that are biased toward the companies. They provided full paid maternity leave and
full paid sick leave for the worker and his or her immediate family, and they did it in the
50s and 60s, and we don't have any of that today. What's wrong with us?

Do you know what this last election was about? It wasn't about Bush; it wasn't about
Gore. It wasn't about Republicans and Democrats. It was about us - and corporations,
that dominate our political economy. The one way to control a population is to control its
expectation level. And our expectation level as a people is rock bottom. We started out,
for example, in the Truman period, when Truman sent to Congress a universal health care
plan, and the American Medical Association defeated it, in 1950 and 51 in Congress. We
came back with the Clinton garbled plan, that was sent to a Democratically-controlled
Congress, and it never got through, even in its garbled, compromised fashion. So eight
years later, what do we have? We've gone from 31 million people and children without
health care coverage to 46 million, at a time of a booming economy - you can imagine
what's going to happen if it ever contracts - and we've gone from arguing about universal
health care (which is now not argued about between the two parties) to some hoked-up
dual version prescription thug plan, which is another was of saying that the big drug
companies, that are mercilessly gouging Americans for drug prices - much higher than
they are allowed to charge Canadians, Mexicans, French and Japanese, etc. - that these
drug companies, who are reporting staggering profits and who are subsidized with
billions of dollars of tax credits and free research and development for drugs that are
given to them free by our government, through the national institutes of health - a
prescription drug plan which is - How much more tax dollars are we going to subsidize
these drug companies' gouging prices? This is where we're at. And it's all downhill.
Expectation level - down, down, down.

We're now talking about minimum wage increase. Well you know the Congress
increases its wages all the time. And they don't waste it with inflation kickers. The
Congress has universal health insurance for itself, it has universal life insurance for itself,
and its salaries and pensions would stagger you, if you saw how they escalated -
especially, one of the most generous pension plans you can imagine. Somebody who's
been in Congress for 10 years, retires at age 64 will bring in over $3 million, just in
pension, before their mortality charts are off. So you know what the Democrats and
Republicans are arguing about? The minimum wage today is $5.15. That is less in
purchasing power, adjusted for inflation, than the minimum wage was in 1968 and 1973.
We're going backwards. So the Democrats are saying we want to raise it a dollar; a
dollar over one year. And the Republicans are saying we want to raise it a dollar over
two years, and give businesses more tax breaks to pay for it. See our expectation level?
The bottom 1/3 of the poorest paid workers in Western Europe make 44% more than our
bottom 1/3.

We've had 25 years of almost unbroken economic growth. The majority of the workers
in this country are still making less in inflation adjusted dollars than in 1973 and 1968,
and slightly less than 1979. This never happened in American history. Whenever there's
been growth, sure, the rich take the lion's share, but now they're taking 10 lions' shares.
And in the old days, when the economy grew, it lifted all boats - now it lifts all yachts!
The top 1% of the richest people in the country have wealth equivalent to the bottom 95%
combined. That's the greatest disparity of wealth in any Western country. Thirty years
ago we had the least disparate of any Western country - sliding behind. In 1980, the U.S.
was the world's biggest creditor. They owed us. We're now the world's biggest debtor.
We've had 26 straight years of trade deficits. We've pushed free trade, year after year,
telling the American people free trade will improve our economy. The deficit this year
will be over $400 billion. We will be importing $400 billion more than we're exporting.
So we're now the biggest debtor. In 1980 we had the highest wages in the world. We're
now 14th, compared to other countries. We have homelessness before our very eyes.
Over half the homeless people work, but they can't spend 70% of their income on rent.
We have 6 million households in this country who have no affordable housing. The
biggest public housing project in the United States is building prison cells.

We have disparities between CEOs and their workers. Compared to the 1940's, the
CEOs of the top 300 corporations made 12 times the entry level wage of the workers in
their company. It's now over 450 times. You take the top 300 corporations, and the
average CEO, not counting perks and benefits, makes $50,000 every day. Some of them
are making $250,000 a day, like the head of Disney, number of years, or the head of
Travelers. The same insurance executives that are pushing Congress to make sure that a
paraplegic teenager or a brain-damaged infant victimized by medical malpractice cannot
get from a jury and judge more than $250,000 for a lifetime of pain and suffering, not
counting medical expenses - a lifetime of pain and suffering. Unindexed inflation -
$250,000. The same man who was lobbying, at that time, was making $250,000 a week
as CEO of the insurance company, without any pain and suffering. What does all this do
to us? All this little panorama of examples that are representative of trends - these are not
Reagan anecdotes, composite anecdotes that don't have any representative characteristic
to them. These are examples of patterns and of trends and of realities. And what is
bailing out families in this country is that there are more low-paying jobs per family. So
the sidewalks are empty, the children are abandoned, the communities don't have
anybody to serve, because everybody's in a frantic, desperate race, in a commuting pace.
Back and forth. No time for comparison shopping, no time for children, no time for
community. To make $ 6.60 an hour in Walmart, or $5.50 cents in MacDonalds, or
$7.40 in some textile plant, or $6.60 subcontracting for the University of Wisconsin or
Harvard. Shame on them. Shame on these universities - they can't pay a living wage.
And then, what of the future? We're mortgaging the future. There's $6.5 trillion of
consumer debt. Even people with two members of a family working, can't make ends
meet. How can you make ends meet on $6.50/$7.00? You've got 47 million workers in
this country - 1 out of every 3 - who don't make a living wage. What's a living wage?
$10 an hour? Before deductions, before the costs of going to work, another car, another
insurance policy, another repair bill? They're making less than $10 an hour. 10 million
of them are making the minimum wage - 70% of them are adults. There's another
American out there - beyond the glitter of Silicon Valley, Route 128, Wall Street - and it
happens to be the biggest part of America.

There's Upstate New York and there's the small farm rural areas that are in great
depression - crushed to their knees with prices for wheat and corn and soy, that they can't
even cover their costs, while the government's handouts go to the big farmers and the
agri-business corporations. There's Appalachia. I went around the country last year and
I saw the human faces of the Department of Labor's statistics. I saw people in
downtown Hartford in the inner city with 40% asthma levels for the children - 3 times
that of 20 years ago - with five incinerators within breathing space. Imagine? We've got
a country where we can't even prevent conditions that are making it hard for our children
to breathe. What's wrong with us today? Spending too much time watching "Survivor"?
How about society's survivor-ship? Spending too much time watching "Jeopardy"? The
world is in jeopardy. You don't need a game! Spending too much time saying we can't
get it done? You can't fight City Hall? You can't take on Exxon? Northern States
Power? Cargo? CitiGroup? General Motors? How much of our time do we spend on
our citizen duties? There isn't anything we inherited in this country - that we can be
proud of - that didn't come from people breaking their routine, standing tall, and
engaging the power structure. It starts with expectation level and civic self-respect.
That's what it starts with.

"We, the citizens." "I, the citizen." What does that mean? What does it mean to call
yourself a "citizen"? It means what? You've got a legal status? You're an American
citizen? You can't be deported? What else does it mean? The problem is that we don't
know what it means by going through grade school, high school and graduate school,
because, first of all, learning the skills of citizenship, learning how to build a strong
democracy, upsets the establishment. You don't want to teach these little kids, in the 7th
grade, how to investigate City Hall, do you? How to do supermarket price comparisons,
how to expose insurance gouging, how to show how used car dealers treat their
customers. Just think of the calls that would be made to the school board - not to
mention - they're on the school board! Well? How about high school? I went to high
school. I didn't learn anything about citizen skills. There was a civics course; it was dull
as dishwater. To this day, that's my main image of this course. Not a proper name in the
book. They had charts: How a bill becomes a law. There was no chart for lobbyists, for
greed, for corruption, for campaign contributions. It was a sterilized chart. Then I went
to university, and we were supposed to learn by memorizing. Here is the sequence: You
went from memorization to regurgitation to vegetation. If you got a good grade, you
graduated and they gave you a diploma, and they made you feel good. And I remember,
after we finished our courses and exams in senior year, and before we graduated, a bunch
of us sat around and one intrepid classmate said, "Hey, what did we learn here?" And
there was this embarrassed silence. And then, you know, he struck at our pride, right?
So we started saying, well, we learned how to think. That sounded good. And someone
else said, "We learned how to write, 'cause you have to write all kinds of papers and
theses. That sounded good.

But just about 4 weeks earlier, a bunch of insurance salesman, who probably just barely
graduated through high school, knocked on the door of all our dorms. And these semi-
literate insurance salesmen for big insurance companies fleeced more of us than we could
ever count. They actually sold some of our classmates life insurance. No dependents, no
spouse - what do you need life insurance for? It was an embarrassing discussion
because we did not learn, intellectually and practically, life's major skills. We did not
learn how to be a citizen - citizen skills - we did not learn how to be a wise consumer. In
the aggregate, that could lead to great environmental advances and preservation of
dollars, and health and safety, like health care, cars - demanding safer cars, all these
things. We did not learn how to be effective and demanding taxpayers, getting value
received from our government for our tax dollars. Not just saying we want to pay less
taxes. There are certain things that we can't do for ourselves - increasingly so - because
of a complex interdependent society and world - that we have to do as a group. That
group is supposed to be self-government - local, state, national. It's supposed to be in a
democratic context. We didn't learn how to be a lot of things. We had no idea of real
life. And it's time I think for us to ask why, in a world with increasing intelligence,
capability, science, technology, you name it, expectation levels keep dropping and there
is less application of known solutions to serious problems. What are they? Well, you
don't think we can have universal health care coverage? How come every other Western
country has and some third world countries we give foreign aid have universal health care
coverage? You don't think we could have solar energy, wind power, photovoltaics,
thermal, solar thermal, passive solar architecture? I mean a lot of these have been around
for millenniums - the ancient Greeks and Persians and East Africans had solar passive
architecture. Windmills have been around for centuries; biomass - centuries. We just
put them into modern form now. Where we can take biomass, put it into a gas and put it
into the pipeline system. Wind power is already starting in California and here in
Minnesota and elsewhere. Who's in the way? The fossil fuel companies, who control
our government's energy policy and get subsidies from you the taxpayer, year in and year
out - the coal, gas, oil, plus the nuclear companies. They determine it. In fact, the oil
companies have bought out most of the solar photovoltaic companies in our country,
from which little is heard once they make the purchase. Affordable housing. Is that
beyond our technological and economic capacity? Of course not.

Hunger in America. 12 million children tonight will go to sleep hungry, according to the
Department of Agriculture. Food rotting in warehouses. 12 million children. Hungry.
Malnutrition? Fat and sugar companies pumping that stuff in your bodies, increasing
weight, diabetes, other related diseases. That's what MacDonald's is - a fat and sugar
pump. That's what so many of these other companies are. These are companies that are
trained to turn your tongues against your brain. They regale your tastebuds and harm
your body. We don't know how to do something about that? When the Department of
Agriculture tried under - McGovern stimulated them in the 60s and 70s - they elevated
nutritional publicity and education - 40 million people changed their nutrition habits to
the better. And shows like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Phil Donohue, in those days,
they would have these people on, talking about high fat, fiber, sugar, and lots of people
watched it. Can you imagine anybody getting on the Ricki Lake Show, the Jerry
Springer sado-masochist show today? You see the decay of the culture? Huh? Sally
Jesse Rafael? Where they bring people who are cheating on one another, or otherwise
engaged in all kinds of deplorable behavior, and they shout and each other and they have
bouncers, and in the commercial breaks they feed the audience so that the audience hoots
and hollers and asks the questions that want to be asked. That's one reason why
Donohue got out of the business. He wouldn't play that game - thought it was grossly
unethical. And the 3-piece suit guys, on the 30th Floor in Chicago and L.A. and New
York skyscrapers, who run these companies - they laugh all the way to the bank - using
our public airways.

Now realization - and recognizing that we all grow up corporate; we look at the world
through corporate eyes. I grew up corporate, you grew up corporate, and you can test
yourself very easily. Make a list of everything you own, right down to the paper clip, and
then see what you miss. What you miss is what we all own together as a commonwealth
that is controlled by corporations. 1/3 of America, the public land, the public airwaves
controlled by the broadcast industry, which we own and they pay us no rent for their
license. They get it free. We're the landlords, they're the tenants, no rent, and they keep
us off 24 hours a day and decide who says what 24 hours a day on the radio and TV
programs. Quite a deal. $5 trillion of worker pension money controlled by insurance
companies and banks in terms of investment, often against the workers interest. Imagine
if the workers, through intermediate institutions, controlled the investment of that money
back into the community, where the workers' families lived. Justice Brandeis called this
"other people's money". That's what banks and insurance companies do. They deal with
other people's money. They control other people's money, and then make you feel like
they've done you a favor. You walk into a bank, right? You put your money in the
bank. They should get on their knees, right? Instead they charge you for everything but
breathing. You bounce a check, costs them $1.50, according to the Federal Reserve,
including check fraud; they hit you for $29/$30. You send a check to a friend; it
bounces. You get charged $29 and the friend gets charged $10 from the other bank. And
that friend calls up the bank and says, "What are you charging ME $10 for?" And the
bank says, "You should be more diligent and figure out the checks that are going to
bounce before you bounce them." First Union Bank charges you $2 for every call you
make after two a month to a human being in the bank. So if you don't get your complaint
handled, you keep calling, you keep getting charged. And of course they don't bill you;
they debit you. That's how they get away with it - they just debit you - because they've
got your money. First Union charges 50 cents for a deposit slip. How's that one? You
know, under the glass? 50 cents - deposit slip. You want to cash a government check
even? They don't trust you. They get your fingerprint. These companies are invading
your privacy. They know more about your medical, your financial, what you buy, who
are you with, what you did, 4 years ago - all in these data bases whirling around the
world, being sold to who knows what - possibly full of erroneous errors or slander, and
you can't control it. They're going to know more about your genetic type. With all the
genetic determinism that that's going to flow - what kind of jobs you can't get, what kind
of insurance you're denied, and you haven't got anything to say about it. These
companies are regulating you, they're controlling what you own, they're polluting your
environment, they're shaping your curriculum, and they're laughing all the way to the
bank because we grow up corporate, looking at the world just the way they want us to
look at the world.

We don't know that we own the commonwealth of America, so that we can control it,
like the public lands and the public airwaves. We hear the words "crime", "violence",
"welfare" and "regulation", and we think of street crime, and we think of wars, and we
think of poor people on welfare, and we think of government regulation. That's growing
up corporate. Because by far, the most egregious examples of those words are
corporations. Homicides in this country, of the street variety, took 15,500 lives last year
- it's a terrible toll. Now let's see about preventable corporate violence. 65,000 people
die a year, according to the EPA, from air pollution diseases. 100,000 people a year die
from overprescribing of drugs and antibiotics, reducing resistance or other baleful side
effects. 80,000 people - according to Harvard School of Public Health physicians -
80,000 people die every year in hospitals from gross medical incompetence and neglect.
That's more than the combined death toll from motor vehicle crashes, homicides and fire
- combined. Did you ever see the presidential candidates in the two parties ever take a
stand against medical malpractice violence? They never mention it. 58,000 people die
from occupational hazards in the workplace - trauma and toxics - every year. So when
we talk about violence, we should talk about structured violence - institutional violence.
That is as preventable if not more so than street violence. And we should also talk about
welfare. Your tax dollars go to corporate welfare, far, far bigger than poverty welfare
programs. Corporate welfare programs are exploding at the local, state and national
level. Any company of any power says "Gimme" to City Hall. Gimme for the stadium.
Gimme for the arena. Gimme to put a K-Mart in your city jurisdiction instead of on the
other line, in another town. Gimme tax holidays. While small business pays taxes. The
big guys come in and they get a 10-year tax holiday - like Intel. Every time Intel builds a
billion dollar chip plant in a community, it gets about $50 million of tax avoidance. It
brings in more people, their kids are increasing the rolls of the schools, there's more
pressure on police and fire services, and Intel says, "We don't want to pay our fair share."
And they're the 800-pound Gorilla. That's what's happening all over the country.
Levels of unfairness that would make an iceman's blood boil.

You can test the metal of a society when it is in prosperity and surplus better than when
it's in depression and deficit. And that's where we are now. We have a projected 10-
year surplus, minus Social Security, of $2.9 trillion. The battle in Congress is how much
of it to give back, and most of it, of course, will go to the upper income people. People
who make $30,000 or less - they pay a payroll tax that's much bigger than their income
tax, especially people making $15,000 or $20,000. And the slogan of the Republicans is
that they believe the American people are better able to spend their own money than the
government. That really sounds logical, doesn't it? Until you go to the second step of
analysis. Which is: Don't the American people want upgraded clean drinking systems?
It's pretty hard for you and I to make that happen, huh? Other than buying bottled water,
with our fingers crossed. Don't the American people want modern public transit to
relieve the huge, crowded commutes that are eating so many hours of the week and
fatiguing people? Don't the American people want their schools to have decent facilities
and decent materials and decent safety? Don't the American people want to have
community health clinics so that people who can't afford to have health care can go to
these clinics with their children? You can go on and on in terms of the unmet needs of a
country desperately in need of repair. Don't the American people want libraries and
library branches to be kept open? There wasn't one library branch closed down in the
30s in the Depression. They're closing down all over the country today. Massive
prosperity. Macroprosperity. We have huge unmet needs in our country. Huge unmet
needs. And they're talking in Congress how much to give back to the upper income
people in this country. That is the rancid nature of public debate in this country. Where
one party defines itself as not being as bad as the other party. Instead of defining itself by
the better, it defines itself by not being as bad - the least of the worst. Downward goes
our expectation level.

We have to raise our expectation level. And I want to leave you with an example right
before our very eyes. Is there anybody in this auditorium who has not signed a standard
form contract? You know, the fine print contract? Anybody? Okay. Obviously, you've
bought insurance, you've opened a bank account with a bank card that you've signed,
you've bought computer software with the shrink wrapped license, you've signed
landlord leases, maybe you've signed employment agreements. Now, we're supposed to
be a country of freedom of contract, aren't we? And we are told by all these sellers,
"Sign on the dotted line." And suppose we say, "No, I don't want to sign on the dotted
line. I don't like all this fine print. It seems to me that all it does is put the responsibility
for everything on my back, free you of responsibility, and if I have a dispute, you've got
fine print that keeps me from going to court - called binding arbitration. I'm going across
the street to one of your competitors." And the company says to you, "Be our guest. Go
across the street. Go from Sears to Montgomery Ward. Go from Ford to Chrysler. Go
from Aetna to Safeco. And you see the same contract, and the same fine print. So you
are left with either not buying, or signing on the dotted line. We don't even have a level
of outrage about this. The fact that these companies are private legislatures that can force
us to sign on the dotted line, and strip us of our constitutional rights to go to court and be
tried by a jury of our peers if we have a major dispute of being ripped off or harmed, and
we don't even have a sense of outrage because we grow up corporate. That's the way
things are. That's the way things occur.

Now, let's just see if you're an assertive consumer. Suppose you go down to a car dealer,
you pick out your used car, or your new car, and the dealer is preparing the materials,
checking out your credit, and throws down all the papers and says, "Okay, sign."
Installment loan contract, this, that, so on. And you say, "Excuse me, my daddy and
mommy told me never to sign anything I didn't read. Can I have a chair to sit down and
read the contract? I've got my magnifying glass." And the car salesman says to himself,
"This is some strange duck." But, you know, you've got to be nice to people. He says,
"Okay, here's a chair. Sit down." So, you sit down, and you start reading the sales
agreement, and you don't like some things. You cross out the binding arbitration, you
double the warranty, you add a few words here and there, and you initial it, and then you
take it back to the salesperson and say, "I think we've got a deal. Here, sign on the dotted
line." Do you realize what would happen to you if you did that?

Well, as students, you have assets at this university that you might not be aware of; that
you may not have after you graduate. When again are you going to have your own
newspaper, your own radio station, your own television, your own gathering halls, your
own scientific laboratories, your own technical experts - your faculty? Connecting with
your own idealism. When after you graduate are you going to have most of those
facilities? Make the most of them. Use your independent work and your coursework to
tackle real life problems here in Minnesota or in our country, and to analyze them. I got
into auto safety because wrote a paper at law school on the subject, and I followed up on
it, and one thing led to another, and over a million lives saved and millions of injuries
prevented, with very simple safety features that were on the shelf and not put into cars.
You've got 15,000 days or so, if you're 20, before you reach 65. That's a little over 2000
weeks. Did last week go quickly? There are some people in this audience who are a
little older than you are who will tell you very convincingly how fast your 20s, 30s, 40s,
50s, 60s are going to go. And so you might want to ask yourself how do you want to
look back on your next 50 years, which are going to be very tumultuous years. Global
warming is not a fiction. Ozone depletion is increasing. The destruction of the world's
environment. The weapons of mass destruction. The mass media moguls running
operations that are being called weapons of mass distraction. Some of you will have to
deal with the ethical problems of humanoids, subhuman bioengineered creatures working
for corporations. What's the definition of humanity? Organs being sold in hardware
stores or online - who's going to afford this? Who's going to afford to be genetically
modified? Will there be two species a hundred years from now, as professor Lee Silver
writes - Princeton University biologist - where the rich will be able to make themselves
bigger, smarter, more pretty, handsome, physically more immune from diseases, and the
rest of humanity not. Will there be two species? There are serious problems, and yet
everywhere trivialization is the big temptation before you, to trivialize your lives, put
them to sinecures, lower your horizons, make you feel like you can't shake the world and
improve the world with your fellow human beings, make you feel that you don't have
time for democracy. You only have time for a frantic commute - back and forth, back
and forth, back and forth.

That's why you're here in this university. This is the time to plan your life with elective
thinking. Keep options open, of course, but have a better sense of where you're going.
We are seeing millions of young people in their 20s drift right through their 20s. It goes
like that. They haven't found themselves. Millions of young people now are
experiencing their 20s as adolescents experienced adolescence 50 years ago. It's not a
very promising scenario. That's why you've got to take yourself much more seriously.
You just can't be smart in physics class or economics class or computer class by day and
expose yourself to trivialization on weekends or by night. You have to re-define
enjoyment, self-discipline, your own creative outlets, and not let anyone marginalize and
trivialize you, because otherwise you'll not only lower your expectation level of where
this world should be; you'll lower your own expectation level of where you can be as a
citizen. We're going through a time in our society where abundance is not being
transformed into justice. When surpluses are not being used for dire needs. And when
the rich are reaping the just rewards of millions of hardworking people, who can barely
make ends meet. That shows that even at a time of abundance - macroabundance - quite
apart from how it's poorly distributed - you can't get things done. What's going to
happen if the economy turns down? What's going to happen if we start getting
macroscarcity?

Let me just end on this note. How many of you take these multiple choice tests before
you come here - SATs and all that? Yeah. This is an example of mechanized testing for
aptitude or intelligence that is a specialized type of fraud. A, B, C, D, none of the above
is categorical thinking that deprives you of critical nuance, as a physicist put it in a book
he wrote called "The Tyranny of Multiple Choice Testing". It's inflicted on you because
it purports to be administratively easy, machine scored and objective. It's not objective.
It deprives you of an assessment of your multiple intelligences, and puts you in a tunnel
type of evaluation process under time pressure. It doesn't really test what you know. It
tests whether you're adroit in highly pressurized A, B, C, D, none of the above type of
choices. And, above all, it allows you to internalize the scores as a measure of self-worth
and esteem with a phony measure of intelligence. These tests are given exaggerated
significance by licensing agencies for everything from insurance licenses to foreign aid -
foreign service employment, all the way to admissions offices for undergraduate and
graduate school. It's an easy hook. These tests do not test nor do they purport to test the
most important assets that you have for success in life. They don't test your judgment,
experience, wisdom, diligence, stamina, resiliency, creativity, idealism. Otherwise, they
test everything else important about you. I wonder what that is. So I urge you - So don't
internalize those scores in any way to demoralize yourself or forego opportunities in
whatever areas of endeavor you might undertake. Because all of those areas that they do
not test are the areas that get things done in life, that adjust to hard times in life,
creatively, and that generate the breakthroughs. Thank you very much.