Graduates here’s an honor code for life – bloomberg electricity and magnetism worksheets 8th grade

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That story is a legend, of course. But legends are passed down from generation to generation because they carry some larger truth. The cherry tree legend has endured because it’s not really about Washington. It’s about us, as a nation. It’s about what we want from our children — and what we value in our leaders: honesty.

Today, those in politics routinely dismiss inconvenient information, no matter how factual, as fake — and they routinely say things that are demonstrably false. When authoritarian regimes around the world did this, we scoffed at them. We thought: The American people would never stand for that.

For my generation, the plain truth about America — the freedom, opportunity and prosperity we enjoyed — was our most powerful advantage in the Cold War. The more communists had access to real news, the more they would demand freedom. We believed that, and we were right.

Today, though, many of those at the highest levels of power see the plain truth as a threat. They fear it, deny it, attack it — just as the communists once did. And so here we are, in the midst of an epidemic of dishonesty, and an endless barrage of lies.

The trend toward elected officials propagating alternate realities — or winking at those who do — is one of the most serious dangers facing democracies. Free societies depend on citizens who recognize that deceit in government isn’t something to shrug your shoulders at.

When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law. And when we tolerate dishonesty, we will get criminality. Sometimes, it’s in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it’s abuse of power. And sometimes, it’s both. If left unchecked, these abuses can erode the institutions that preserve and protect our rights and freedoms and open the door to tyranny and fascism.

Now, you might say: There have always been dishonest politicians — in both parties. And that’s true. But there is now more tolerance for dishonesty in politics than I have seen in my lifetime. And I’ve been alive for one-third of the time the United States has existed. And as my generation can tell you: The only thing more dangerous than dishonest politicians with no respect for the law, is a chorus of enablers who defend their every lie.

Remember: The honor code here didn’t just require you to be honest. It required you to say something if you saw others acting dishonestly. That might be the most difficult part of an honor code, but it may also be the most important, because violations affect the whole community.

The same is true in our country. If we want elected officials to be honest, we have to hold them accountable when they are not or else suffer the consequences. Don’t get me wrong. Honest people can disagree. But productive debate requires an acceptance of basic reality.

The dishonesty in Washington isn’t just about science. We aren’t tackling so many of the biggest problems that affect your future — from the lack of good jobs in many communities, to the prevalence of gun violence, to the threats to the environment — because too many political leaders are being dishonest about facts and data, and too many people are letting them get away with it.

Extreme partisanship is like an infectious disease. But instead of crippling the body, it cripples the mind. It blocks us from understanding the other side. It blinds us from seeing the strengths in their ideas and the weaknesses in our own.

For example: In the 1990s, leading Democrats spent the decade defending the occupant of the Oval Office against charges of lying and personal immorality, and attempting to silence and discredit the women who spoke out. At the same time, leading Republicans spent that decade attacking the lack of ethics and honesty in the White House.

When someone’s judgment about an action depends on the party affiliation of the person who committed it, they’re being dishonest with themselves and with the public. And yet, those kinds of judgments have become so second nature that many people in both parties don’t even realize they are making them.

You learned here at Rice that honesty leads to trust and trust leads to freedom (like the freedom to take tests outside the classroom). In democracy, it’s no different. If we aren’t honest with one another, we don’t trust one another. And if we don’t trust one another, we place limits on what we ourselves can do, and what we can do together as a country. It’s a formula for gridlock and national decline — but here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be that way.

When I was in city government, I didn’t care which party proposed an idea. I never once asked someone his or her party affiliation during a job interview, or who they voted for. As a result, we had a dream team of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

That diversity made our debates sharper, our policies smarter, and our government better. Arguments were won and lost on facts and data — not parties and polls. That was why we had success. And it’s been great to see other mayors around the country taking that same kind of approach.

He referred to the "dangers of parties," and called the passion that people have for them the, quote, "worst enemy" of democracy — a precursor to tyranny. Washington urged Americans to, quote, “discourage and restrain" partisanship. Sadly, in recent years, the opposite has happened. There is now unrestrained, rabid partisanship everywhere we look.

It’s not just on social media and cable news. It’s in the communities where we live, which are becoming more deeply red or more deeply blue. It’s in the groups and associations and churches we join, which increasingly attract like-minded people. It’s even in the people we marry.

Today, thankfully, polls show strong majority support for interracial, inter-religious, and same-sex marriage. That’s progress. But unfortunately, the percentage of parents who don’t want their children marrying outside of their political party has doubled.

The more people segregate themselves by party, the harder it becomes to understand the other side and the more extreme each party grows. Studies show that people become more extreme in their views when they are grouped together with like-minded people. That’s now happening in both parties. And as a result, it’s fair to say the country is more divided by party than it has been since the Civil War.

So as you go out into the world, I urge you to do what honesty requires: Recognize that no one, nor either party, has a monopoly on good ideas. Judge events based on what happened, not who did it. Hold yourself and our leaders to the highest standards of ethics and morality. Respect the knowledge of scientists. Follow the data, wherever it leads.

We often don’t see eye to eye on issues. But I have always admired his willingness to reach across the aisle, when others wouldn’t dare. He bucked party leaders, when his conscience demanded it. He defended the honor of his opponents, even if it cost him votes. And he owned up to his mistakes — just like that young kid with the cherry tree.

This university has given you a special opportunity to learn the true meaning of honor to base that code on, and now, I believe, you have a special obligation to carry it forward. The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism, or any other external force or foreign power. It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.