Cynthia M Lummis

University of Wyoming Commencement Address – May 14, 2022

Cynthia M Lummis
May 14, 2022— University of Wyoming, Laramie
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Sen. Lummis' remarks begin at 37:28 in the video.

Graduates, parents, friends, faculty, administration, and staff – congratulations to each of you on this wonderful Wyoming day. You look fabulous. I love the regalia. I love the bling. I love the smiles. You look wonderful.

Thank you for choosing the University of Wyoming.

Wherever your lives take you from this day forward, know that your forever connection to this state is important to Wyoming's rich tapestry of life. Wherever you choose to make your home – whether it's here in Wyoming, working here, building communities here, raising families here – or contributing from afar to this university or this state please know that you are important to this Wyoming community and that while our numbers are few our sense of belonging is strong.

Wyoming truly is a small town with long streets. There's often only one degree of separation between us. Wherever you go in the world, when you see the bucking horse and rider – and believe me it shows up in the most unexpected places – you will smile and probably approach the person wearing it because the kinship is strong. No matter where you wind up, remember – the world needs more cowboys. [Applause]

When I graduated from the University of Wyoming long ago – and I graduated as Al Simpson and our former U.S. senator used to say, I graduated "thank the laude." Instead of summa cum laude I graduated "thank the laude" – the speaker at my commencement ceremony was then-Wyoming governor Ed Herschler, and I remember only one thing that he said in that speech. He said, "I'm going to make this short." And he did make it short – I remember that, too.

Having also learned that "blessed are ye who are brief," I intend to be brief today.

My remarks will center around three pieces of advice.

The first is this: it's hard work to teach children to work hard. In your life, the hardest job you will ever have is to be a parent, a teacher, a mentor. If you are a parent, you already know this. If you have parents, just ask them. It's hard work to teach children to work hard.

This advice – or better said, this observation – came from a UW graduate and friend of mine, Haley Micheli Davis, who with her husband, Randy, also a Wyoming grad, is raising five boys, including a special needs child they adopted from central Europe. Imagine after having four healthy, busy boys, choosing to adopt specifically a special needs infant from another country. That entire family embraced those challenges with gratitude. And if you ask any member of that family, they will say they are stronger, better and harder working because of it.

The role of a parent as teacher, or a teacher as teacher, a coach, a good example, a moral compass, a good listener is an ever-present obligation. When parents fall short or simply are not in their children's lives, these roles fall to others.

I think one of the others among you this day that passed me when I was in the back room is someone who has on the back of their mortar board, "Now it's my turn to teach." Would that student stand up? Would that graduate stand up? Where are you? There she is. [Applause]

Hey, I want to thank you and your colleagues for choosing education, for choosing to be teachers. We need you.

And you're going to be a teacher, even if it's in the classroom or not. Because when parents fall short or simply are not in their children's lives, that role falls to others.

Now if that role in another person's life has fallen to you, accept and assume that role with gratitude. It might be a friend, a family member, a student, or a co-worker. Be the teacher, the coach, the good example, the moral compass, the good listener. The reward that comes to you through the selfless act of sharing your presence and more importantly your attention with others is priceless. And that means putting down your phones. By giving your attention to others – with intention – you give yourself a gift.

My second bit of advice comes from University of Wyoming graduate Jody Levin. It is this: if you think you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. Go find another room.

Graduates, at no time since the 16th century has the world been in as disruptive, transformative times as you are now entering. The Industrial Age has given way to the Information Age, and it will revolutionize the way we all live and work.

From tractors testing soil moisture and harvesting crops by a GPS to passenger and freight vehicles driving themselves, jobs for low-skilled workers are already moving away from fast food shift work and as checkout clerks at big box stores to roles offering more training, more challenges, more opportunities for advancement, doing things like repairing computers with diagnostic tools, pursuing a trade, or providing support services to those of us like me in need of a human interface to help us navigate the digital world.

Likewise, professionals are increasingly accessible online, from Zoom consultations and remote depositions with attorneys to telehealth appointments with doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals, no industry will ever be the same.

Work is being transformed. The mental flexibility and adaptability required of you because of it are like nothing my generation has ever seen.

Even as I speak, intelligent tools with a voice will allow an individual to simultaneously undertake dozens of activities through artificial intelligence. This has implications for every industry, but none so dramatically as our common defense.

Artificial intelligence may soon completely transform our domestic and international security forces and aerospace industries. This will change the way we protect ourselves and our communities from violence, theft, and acts of aggression. This in turn will transform the role that government plays in our lives.

The ethical morass created by these innovations must also be considered. This is a place where our constitutional rights and our technical capabilities are sometimes at odds. We must safeguard our rights, navigating the path forward with extreme thoughtfulness, care, and an orientation towards the importance of every individual right and every individual life.

Even our money is changing. Government-issued money such as the U.S. dollar – often called fiat currency – is today joined by Bitcoin and in some places is replaced by Bitcoin, a fully decentralized, non-government-created store of value and means of payment.

Wyoming has already recognized that Bitcoin is a gamechanger as a store of value and means of exchange. Wyoming has fully embraced the potential of the blockchain – like Madeira, an island off Portugal, or Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador, and in this country, Florida and Texas.

Wyoming is well suited to embrace the cultural aspects of the Information Age, because Wyoming is so naturally aligned with the Information Age's values of individual rights, responsibilities, and freedom.

I believe city, states, and individuals will be the beneficiaries of the move to a decentralized digital future. This will loosen central government's oligopoly on power. That's a good thing for Americans and for humanity in general.

Look at the people in Venezuela right now. Look at the people in Ukraine. They benefit daily from the existence of Bitcoin.

We had testimony in one of my committees that even though it would take days to get U.S. dollars into Ukraine, we can get Bitcoin overnight into Ukraine to help them buy medical supplies and food and ammunition and things they need tomorrow, because it's faster and cheaper and they can use it immediately.

This is the world that you are entering, that you are embracing. It's not a dystopian future or a sci-fi novel – it's here.

So you can rise to the moment by never allowing yourselves to be the smartest person in the room. To excel in this Information Age, you will need to constantly learn, constantly grow, constantly challenge yourself. So surround yourselves with people who are smarter than you. Find that room.

And lastly – you woke up this morning with more individual freedom in the most creative, divinely inspired nation on earth. The transformations and disruptions I have alluded to are testing those very freedoms beyond watch.

There are those in government who believe not that the Creator endowed us with inalienable rights as the founders of our nation acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, but that government created those rights and the government should redefine those rights, including our rights to freedom of speech, religion, property, assembly, and to keep and bear arms.

Even fundamental scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes – male and female – are subject to challenge these days. [Boos]

You know, I… [Boos] …and I challenge those of you…. I'm not making a comment on the fact that there are people who transition between sexes. [Boos]

I personally question how under our constitution we could forbid in-person worship services during a pandemic while labeling liquor stores as essential and keeping them open. [Boos and applause] And how the creation of a government disinformation board is not an affront to free speech.

Which brings me to my third and final observation. This one is coming from my favorite contemporary nonfiction author and professor at King's College, Eric Metaxas.

It is this: we are ourselves in this moment the keepers of the flames of liberty. In his book, "If You Can Keep It," Eric Metaxas reminds us that by itself our constitution is just words on paper. The constitution's charter of self-governance requires the civic engagement of all who call themselves Americans. It is we who must keep all the grand and noble promises of our republic.

That is both the wonderful, spectacular genius of our republic and its terrible sobering danger. The constitution and the founders who created it put unimaginably great and fragile things in the hands of the people – in our hands.

Now, this minute.

So if you take away anything from my remarks today other than yes indeed, they were short remember, these three things: teaching others to work hard is hard work – hard and essential work, hard and rewarding work, gird yourselves with the patience of Job.

Number two, if you think you are the smartest person in the room you're in the wrong room. The Information Age we are in will require that we surround ourselves with people who are smarter than us who will challenge us, spur our creativity, and bring out the best in us.

And thirdly, we are ourselves in this moment the keepers of the flames of liberty, an unimaginably great and fragile thing which requires of all of us a commitment to personal responsibility and civic engagement.

What an interesting time to be alive. Change is around every corner. It is both empowering and overwhelming.

So I suggest viewing these times with an eye to the momentous place in history where we find ourselves. As articulated in the musical, "Hamilton," on the eve of the American Revolution the Schuyler sisters sing out exuberantly, "Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now! History is happening."

Indeed it is. We are here for it, and if you choose, you can shape it. The world definitely needs more cowboys, and it's getting them today.

Congratulations, graduates, and God bless. [Applause]