Chris Hedges’ Commencement Address: Integrity Forged in Cages

Ways of Thinking - Feudalism is very much alive

Image by Judite B via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

with Chris Hedges

Nigrotime on May 21, 2019

On May 10, 2019, Chris Hedges gave this talk to 27 graduating students who were formerly incarcerated—several of whom he taught in prison—and their families at Rutgers University on Friday. The ceremony was held by the Mountainview Program at Rutgers, which helps students complete their degrees at Rutgers after they take college courses inside prisons through the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP) program.

Filmed by Michael Nigro


“Is it not criminal to allow more than 12 million children in the United States to go to bed hungry every night while Amazon, which earned $11 billion in profits last year, paid no federal taxes? In fact, in our system of corporate welfare, Amazon received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government. Is it not criminal that half of all Americans live in poverty, or near-poverty, while the three richest men in America, including the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, have combined fortunes worth more than the total wealth of the poorest half of Americans? Is it not criminal that millions of factory jobs, which once allowed families to earn a living wage with health and retirement benefits, have been shipped to places like Monterrey, Mexico, where Mexican workers in GM plants earn $3 an hour without benefits? Is it not criminal that our families have been sacrificed to feed the mania for corporate profit, left to rot in violent and post-industrial wastelands such as Newark or Camden? Is it not criminal to harass and terrorize the poor on the streets of our cities for petty activities, such as selling loose cigarettes or “obstructing pedestrian traffic,” which means standing too long on a sidewalk, while Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs have never been held accountable for trashing the global economy, wiping out 40 percent of the world’s wealth through fraud? Is [it] not criminal that, as poverty has gone up and crime has actually gone down, our prison population has more than doubled?”

From the archives:

Society Is In Decay by Ralph Nader

Chris Hedges: The Issue Before Us is Death

The Nation’s Enduring Apartheid by Paul Street

Chris Hedges: Mass Incarceration is a Form of Social Control and the Police Function as Predators in Impoverished Communities

Chris Hedges: Caged: Life From Inside and Outside the US Prison System

Chris Hedges: The Prison-Industrial Complex

Chris Hedges: The Revolutionary, Caged + In Landmark Ruling, California Prisons Halt Solitary Confinement

14 thoughts on “Chris Hedges’ Commencement Address: Integrity Forged in Cages

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  6. This is a great post. Thank you so much.

    Chris Hedges has been one of my favorite writers ever since I read his brilliant essay “The Careerists” years ago. I felt the emotion of this speech.

  7. Years ago we were introduced to boycott the buses, lettuce, gas station or companies and got the message, so as consumers we still can make a difference.

    Besides people with a clear conscious sleep and have a quality of life no matter what economic status they have plus they have God in their life because the law of the land or the law of God’s Grace is each person knows what is Right and wrong. The free will to make a decision to do the right thing or to do harm we cannot escape the consequences. I would never give up my freedom nor harm others. So can you imagine the boycotting cutting into their profits. So all those with their paper money cannot escape death, sickness, loneliness, nor all those Congress representatives fix income tax laws for their benefit to forget the working class Americans who have been forced to crime, drugs, poverty, and have lost hope.

    I taught for 40 years and showed my students to boycott. If I don’t need an item I don’t loose sleep. But I did feed a lot of kids in the years 2000 to 2016 because our nation has failed us.

    When I started in 1974 I have always feed children, feed families, and lived boycotting with no regrets. One thing for sure I didn’t need drugs, alcohol consumption, partying or any illegal activity for I appreciate my free will and freedom.

    Crime is a business blue, white collar or whatever is out there a person better know who or what they dealing with.

    Our society and world is not what I expected in 2019 I’m grateful I have my mother who will be 100 years old in 6 days and my parents believe in God, the golden rule, farmed, respected people, served our country, helped our neighbors lived a modest life. I’m sure that’s what is all anyone wants in life.

    We pray for peace on Earth.

    Dandelions are beautiful.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Gloria.

      A very happy birthday to your mother! And thank you for feeding children and families over the years.

      Yes, we all pray for peace on Earth.

      And of course, I also think dandelions are beautiful.

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