Graduating from Western on Saturday was one of the proudest days of my life, from the funny hats to shaking Bruce Shepard’s hand. Unfortunately, commencement speaker Robin C. Russell rained on all of our parades with five minutes of unsolicited investment advice and a message to the class of 2015 to “pay ourselves first.”
Russell’s speech was unlike those I’ve heard before, encouraging values like kindness and altruism. I believe “pay yourself first” is a selfish message that contradicts the second part of Western’s motto “Active minds, changing lives.” Paying yourself first changes your life, but nobody elses. While her financial advice was sound, like investing cash gifts and saving for retirement, it was better suited for inside a bank than Carver Gym.
The advice was also out of touch. She lectured us about accruing debt, explaining how it took years to trust herself with credit cards after youthful spending sprees. However, if graduates in 2015 are worried about debt, chances are it is over student loans. My spending spree was my degree. Credit card debt and student loan debt are two different things and her conflation of the two was offensive.
I found the speech in extremely poor taste. Commencement day is about excitement for the future, not money. I write this letter because I hope it will influence Western to choose commencement speakers that will inspire students to “change lives.”