We don’t know how many commencement speeches have been given in the history of higher education. Tens of thousands, we would guess. But of them all, the one that Robert F. Smith gave at Morehouse College last week will go down in history. In his speech, Mr. Smith declared that he would personally pay off the educational loans that had been taken by all the members of the class that sat there listening to him. According to news reports, it took a few moments for people to realize exactly what he had promised to do. But once the meaning of what he said had sunk in, cheering erupted. Please note that this historic event didn’t take place at Harvard, Princeton or Yale, institutions where hundreds of grads could probably step up and personally pay off a class’s indebtedness. It took place at famous little Morehouse, one of America’s historically black colleges and universities. What a source of pride.

A Modest Suggestion

We would like to suggest that in the future, all commencement speakers follow the new tradition that Mr. Smith just established at Morehouse. We would like to suggest that when someone accepts an invitation to speak at a college commencement, they do so with the understanding that they will pay off the aggregated educational debt of the students who sit before them.

That’s unreasonable, you say?

It might not be so unrealistic at all. We’re not picking anybody’s pockets here, just suggesting that the following commencement speakers might be capable of paying off an entire class’s loans . . .

  • Oprah Winfrey, who spoke at Colorado College on May 19th. Ms. Winfrey’s net worth has been estimated to be as much as $3.5 billion.
  • President Donald J. Trump, who will speak at the Air Force Academy on May 30th. Granted, the Air Force Academy is tuition-free, but Mr. Trump could perhaps offer to pay for pencils, paper or something else. Mr. Trump’s net worth is thought to be about $3 billion, though, without a look at his financial statements and tax returns, nobody knows for sure.
  • Michael Bloomberg is speaking at three commencement ceremonies this year, at Washington University on May 17th, at the University of Maryland on May 24th and at MIT on June 7th. Mr. Bloomberg’s net worth is estimated at $54 billion.
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is speaking at Stanford’s commencement on June 16th. His net worth is estimated to be about $650 million, making him the little fish in our list of donors. But even so, he could be tapped to pay off something for Stanford’s grads. Just their Federal student loans, maybe?

Thank you, Robert F. Smith. With one sentence, you altered the landscape of American higher education. Students at Morehouse and everywhere else should take a moment to digest the importance of what you have done.

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