Commencement 2011: what 10 eminent speakers told graduates

Here are the Monitor's hand-picked highlights from the 2011 commencement season.

8. Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine, Wheaton College

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    Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine, celebrates the 2010 Time 100 Issue on the 100 most influential people in the world.
    Photos Inc. 2010
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What I try to do every day in my job – and what I hope that you've learned over the last four years – is how to sort out the signal from the noise, how to separate the wheat from the chaff, how to separate information from knowledge and, even more importantly,... how to create knowledge out of information….

One of the things I am certain about is that certainty and democracy don't go together. If you look at the leaders of the last 10 years who have had ironclad certainty, who are they? Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Qaddafi. Totalitarianism is the place for certainty, not democracy….

Democracy is based on doubt. It's based on wondering. It's based on questioning: Are we doing the fair thing? Are we doing the right thing? Are we doing the just thing? It's not about certainty. So I'm telling you today: Beware of certainty. Beware of ideas and theories that cannot be tested. Beware of people who know that they're right.

[Editor's note: We're not sure how Joseph Stalin became a leader of the last 10 years, but we take the point.]

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