Graduation Speeches 2013: Mayor Bloomberg Goes Political in Stanford Commencement Speech

Like any other commencement speaker, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave an address to the Stanford University Class of 2013 that focused on pursuing one’s goals and becoming the future of the nation. However, Bloomberg’s address was special in that he spoke of the future of the nation through the pursuit of the American Dream, a discussion that ultimately led his speech in the direction of immigration reform. Although this speech was significantly more political than the average commencement address (as was the one he gave at Kenyon College which included a discussion on gun control), Mayor Bloomberg had several valid and clearly articulated points in his push for immigration reform. The entire speech can be accessed here.

He opened his discussion with the following statement: “It’s up to you to embrace that opportunity for yourself and to extend that opportunity to those who, right now, are being denied it.” He thereafter went on to mention that 30% of the graduates were on student visas and would have to leave the country soon, a reality that Bloomberg considered “the most backward economic policy you could come up with” — and he is right.

Just as Bloomberg mentioned, it makes no sense to invite international students to study in the U.S. and provide them with the financial and educational tools tocomplete their studies just to send them back to work abroad with “our competitors.” 

With immigrants making up 40% of STEM master’s and Ph.D. students but the current immigration system limiting each country to accounting for no more than 7% of all green cards, this is but one of the issues that legislators must consider in improving immigration policy. 

While especially skilled workers, including foreigners who have been educated abroad, could be useful additions to the economy, it is is international students who graduate from U.S. institutions of higher education in particular that should be granted the opportunity to stay here if they so desire. 

Most importantly though, Mayor Bloomberg referenced the countless undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and constantly must face the possibility of returning to their nation of origin, a land they do not even know. 

“Every child brought to this country illegally should have the opportunity to apply for financial aid and go to college — they have done nothing wrong,” Bloomberg said. 

Sure, recent legislation such as deferred action has helped alleviate some of the woes  undocumented young people face concerning deportation, but it still does not provide a path to citizenship and this is a fact that can no longer be ignored or put off.

Although some may criticize Bloomberg for this highly political speech, this is the type of address that graduates must hear. Whether the graduates agree or not with his stance on the issue, the topic of immigration will be one that continues to represent a troubled area in American politics. As Mayor Bloomberg stated, by not providing a fair solution for immigrants, especially those who have worked hard and arrived as children, we really are “turning our back on our history.” It is time that we offer the many deserving undocumented individuals and international students who have lived in, been educated in, and will help strengthen our country a chance at the American Dream.