The following remarks were given by IWP Founder and President John Lenczowski at IWP’s Commencement Ceremony on May 21, 2016.
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. I would first like to thank everyone who has made this school possible:
Our Trustees, generous benefactors, brilliant faculty, dedicated staff, friends and helpers, loyal alumni, and ultimately, our students and their families.
Today, as we celebrate your graduation, I want to discuss some of the challenges you face as most of you go on to serve the cause of peace and the defense of our civilization.
The global strategic environment you are inheriting is as chaotic as any in modern history. During the Cold War, we faced a truly existential threat from totalitarianism and nuclear annihilation. But today, some threats – such as that of radical Islamist terrorism – are more volatile. Resurgent Russian imperialism threatens the breakup of NATO. And the threats from China, North Korea, and Iran, combined with our own vulnerabilities, are posing dangers of potentially staggering proportions.
Our government’s response to these threats in recent years, in my view, has been incoherent, weak, and indecisive.
It has spent trillions on military operations, yet radical Islamist terrorism continues to spread. Our graduates know that just killing terrorists will not stop the recruitment of new terrorists – which is a political and ideological problem.
Our students’ study of the arts of statecraft has taught them methods of non-violent conflict, such as political and ideological warfare. They have learned about offensive counterintelligence operations involving the penetration and disruption of terrorist groups from within. They have learned about depriving terrorists of the funds they need to operate.
They have also learned that one must understand the mind and doctrine of the enemy – which means that one must be unafraid to identify the enemy ideology.
This, in turn, requires looking at the world realistically and not as we wish it to be.
Fighting a toxic ideology requires a positive alternative. That is why we teach American founding principles and Western moral philosophy – rare subjects in American academia today.
Consider the rising threat from China. Our nation’s leadership has wrongly assumed that China’s adoption of state capitalism will lead to democratic reforms. Instead, China is using its new wealth in an effort to replace us as the global superpower.
Our leaders are silent about China’s huge military buildup. You may know a bit about Chinese cyber espionage — the greatest theft of intellectual property in history. But do you know about the Underground Great Wall (our students do) — three thousand miles of navigable tunnels which are concealing China’s growing nuclear arsenal? Do you know that China has over 50,000 spies in our country? Do you know that the Chinese Communist Party has a massive propaganda and covert political influence apparatus here that is designed to distort our perceptions of reality?
You can’t read the full truth about all this in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Each of these money-losing newspapers relies on receiving large advertising monies from Beijing’s propaganda apparatus to publish a regular “China Watch” supplement that looks like news. So those papers censor themselves: they cannot publish stories that are offensive to the Beijing regime. And so huge segments of our national leadership are not seeing or facing up to the reality of a rising superpower that is using classic Cold War strategies against our country on a daily basis.
There is another critical vulnerability about which no one speaks – except our Chancellor, Jim Woolsey. He is the Paul Revere of our country when it comes to this issue, and a number of others.
Our electrical grid is hugely vulnerable to cyber attack and to electromagnetic pulse – “EMP.” Recent Russian aggression against Ukraine involved taking down part of its electrical grid. Meanwhile, a nuclear explosion 50 miles up in the atmosphere or solar storm activity can totally destroy our entire electrical grid and the circuits of every car, computer, and electronic device.
Russia, China, and North Korea can each perform such an attack. Soon Iran will have that capability. The Congressional EMP Commission has concluded that such an attack would stop food and water processing and distribution, and up to 90 percent of our population — who are unable to live in pre-electricity conditions — could not survive.
Where is our national leadership on all this? Why don’t they tell the American people about the full magnitude of these dangers? Why are they shrinking our armed forces to the lowest levels in half a century? Why do they neglect the non-military instruments of statecraft, which these graduates have studied?
Where will we find leaders who have the courage to see the truths about this global strategic environment, and then actually do something about it?
A big part of the answer is here: among these graduates and their fellow alumni.
You may think: how can such a relatively small number of graduates make such a big difference?
The answer is that one person can make a difference.
The great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “One word of truth outweighs the world.”
Individual IWP graduates, armed with courage and knowledge of the realities of the world, have seen the truth, inserted it into intelligence analysis, included it in the policy options memoranda, and added it to the speeches of national leaders.
Individual IWP graduates have taught entire government agencies how to do jobs that they forgot how to do – because of the loss of institutional memory in these agencies.
The crisis of national leadership that we face is not simply a matter of professionalism, although it is that in many respects. It concerns also a widespread alienation from America’s values, principles, and purposes and a widespread view that America may even be a malevolent force in the world that must be restrained.
This alienation derives from the remarkably prevalent philosophies, particularly on campuses around the country, of multiculturalism, cultural Marxism, and moral relativism. These ideas have now brought important segments of our nation’s intelligentsia to be skeptical about Western civilization, to idealize non-Western cultures, encourage their importation to America, and produce a Balkanization within our own country to dilute what some of us understand to be “American culture.”
Too many members of our intelligentsia and governing elite fail to appreciate that, for all of America’s sins, our country possesses an extraordinary feature of Judeo-Christian civilization – the capacity to acknowledge our failings, to atone for them, and to work to prevent them from recurring.
In contrast to other civilizations, America is the greatest experiment in social, political, and economic self-improvement in history, and it is based on a key concept.
That concept is the recognition of the fallibility of human nature combined with respect for the dignity of the individual human person that has created our rule of law, system of separation of powers, and checks and balances – structures all designed to protect our society from concentrating power in the hands of a single evil-doer or party.
Appreciation of the genius of these Constitutional arrangements is the foundation of true, morally-grounded patriotism, which is the central pillar of our national security posture.
The study of American founding principles encourages this understanding and appreciation.
We at IWP teach how to use all the instruments of power. In doing so, we recognize that power, like liberty, can be abused. So power must be exercised by people of character.
True statesmanship is not only a matter of knowledge and skill, it is a matter of wisdom and good character.
- It means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
- It involves cultivation of conscience.
- It requires cultivation of the will and self-control.
- It requires making wise choices repeatedly so that they become good habits – because the habits you develop become your destiny.
Character means cultivating certain virtues, such as honesty, reliability, loyalty, and courage.
One must have the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see the truth when all about you are willfully blind, and the courage to tell truth to power.
We teach our students that there are two kinds of people – mission oriented people and careerists — those who are interested solely in power, position, money, glory, and ego satisfaction.
We want you graduates to be mission-oriented.
Washington is filled with careerists who are ready to risk sacrificing their honor to get ahead. We want you never to sacrifice your honor. And when you develop a reputation for being mission-oriented and for serving a cause higher than yourselves, you will inevitably get ahead in the most honorable way.
Humility will keep you focused on the mission. Hubris will derail you from it.
And prudence, the essential virtue of statesmanship, will increase the chance of mission success.
Prudence enhances one’s ability to discern good ends and to achieve them with means that are good.
Prudence means applying moral principles to particular situations, and that, in turn, protects you from using ideological templates that cannot possibly fit every circumstance.
With the education that you graduates have received, we expect from you great professional skill in statecraft. But we also expect that you will become true servant leaders: serving your families, customers, community, and country.
You are all now part of a family, a network, of people dedicated to very high ideals and we trust that you will strengthen that network for the cause of peace, freedom, justice, and security.
If you keep true to the principles to which you have been exposed at IWP, you will find some real meaning to your lives, and America and the world will be better places.
I have been inspired to see your idealism and seriousness of professional purpose.
On the certificates of our valedictorian and salutatorian, it says “Per aspera, ad astra.” It means “Through hardships to the stars.” You have all gone through the hardships of the IWP curriculum. So, congratulations for persevering and God bless you all.