After sitting through dozens of graduation speeches that were a terrible waste of time, the brilliant educator and critic Neil Postman wrote the sort of commencement address he wished would be given but never is. In it he talks about two groups of ancient people, the Athenians and the Visigoths. This is because, Postman said, you soon must align yourself with the spirit of one or the spirit of the other. You must choose between the Athenians or the Visigoths.
The Athenians developed a political democracy, invented philosophy, and one of their scientists conceived of the atomic theory of matter 2,300 years before it ever occurred to a modern scientist. They sang beautiful poems and wrote plays that are still performed today. They loved beauty and strove for excellence.
The Visigoths, by contrast, were good at one thing: killing. Their language was barbaric, their art grotesque. They loved to burn books and destroy buildings. Nothing of this people remains.