Mitch Daniels urges graduates to resist tribalism

For several years, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a conservative who now leads Purdue University, has imparted the same caution to graduating students. He tells them that while he hopes they never think of themselves in this way, they are now aristocrats who owe their membership in a privileged elite not to family name, wealth, or ties to a ruling party, but to their unusual cognitive skills and education.

America’s new aristocrats “have begun to cluster together,” he notes, “to work with each other, live near each other, socialize with each other, marry each other, have children just like each other’s children … and unintentionally to segregate from their less blessed, less well-educated fellow citizens. I’ve urged each set of graduates to resist this tendency, to make special efforts to connect with those who never made it to Purdue or a place like it. It’s a shame to go through life with a narrow range of human interactions, and all one can learn from those who are different.”

But, he declared during this year’s commencement address, over these last few years, “this new self-segregation has taken on a much more worrisome dimension. It’s no longer just a matter of Americans not knowing and understanding each other. We’ve seen these clusters deepen, and harden, until separation has led to anger, misunderstanding turned into hostility. At the individual level, it’s a formula for bitterness and negativity. For a self-governing people, it’s poison.”