Michael Bloomberg Urges Rice Graduates To Reject Divisive, Fact Free Rhetoric

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Image 1 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 2 of 25 Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 3 of 25 Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 4 of 25 Graduates wait for the start of Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates wait for the start of Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 5 of 25 Image 6 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 7 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 8 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 9 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 10 of 25 Image 11 of 25 Graduates head for their seats before Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates head for their seats before Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 12 of 25 Rice University's commencement begins with a procession past the William Marsh Rice Statue on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Rice University's commencement begins with a procession past the William Marsh Rice Statue on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 13 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 14 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg returns to his seat after delivering a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) less Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg returns to his seat after delivering a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For ... more Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 15 of 25 Image 16 of 25 Rice University's commencement begins with a procession past the William Marsh Rice Statue on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Rice University's commencement begins with a procession past the William Marsh Rice Statue on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 17 of 25 Graduates make their way to their seats for Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates make their way to their seats for Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 18 of 25 Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 19 of 25 Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Graduates are pictured during Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 20 of 25 Image 21 of 25 Rice University's commencement is pictured on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Rice University's commencement is pictured on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 22 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 23 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The William Marsh Rice Statue is pictured in the background. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) less Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The William Marsh Rice Statue is pictured in the ... more Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 24 of 25 Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ). ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ) less Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivers a speech at Rice University's commencement on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Rice University in Houston, Texas. ( Loren Elliott/ For the Houston Chronicle ). ( ... more Photo: Loren Elliott, Freelance / For The Houston Chronicle Image 25 of 25 Michael Bloomberg urges Rice graduates to reject divisive, fact-free rhetoric 1 / 25 Back to Gallery

Michael R. Bloomberg, media mogul, philanthropist and former mayor of New York City, asked the 2018 graduating class of Rice University to reject the divisive rhetoric and growing incivility on display in Washington and around the country as they leave to launch their own careers.

The country is more divided now than it has been since the Civil War, Bloomberg told the graduates and their families. Bloomberg lamented an era during which “alternative facts” and “post-truth” have entered the nation’s vocabulary, and like-minded groups huddle together, drowning out the opinions of others and rejecting scientific and other evidence that contradicts their world views.

“How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie,” Bloomberg said, referring to George Washington, “to politicians who can not tell the truth?”

Rice, which opened in 1912, held its 105th commencement under a hot sun on Saturday morning, awarding nearly 2000 diplomas, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City for three consecutive terms beginning in 2002, first elected as a Republican but later switching to an independent.


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The co-founder and chief executive of Bloomberg L.P., a financial services, software and media company, Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of $53.4 billion, making him the 11th richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine. Bloomberg, 76, has signed The Giving Pledge, joining a movement of other wealthy individuals and families to give away most of their money during their life.

So far, Bloomberg has given away $6 billion, including $700 million last year. During the introduction of Bloomberg, Rice President David W. Leebron joked that maybe some of Bloomberg’s money could be diverted to Rice.

Bloomberg let him down gently when it was his turn to speak, noting that Johns Hopkins, his alma mater, has preempted Rice. Bloomberg has given Johns Hopkins $1.5 billion.

In the well-received speech that included shout-outs for well-loved university haunts — including Whataburger for honey butter chicken biscuit sandwiches — Bloomberg warned the graduates of the danger of turning a blind eye to the lies and distortions coming from some political leaders. Bloomberg, who considered an independent presidential campaign two years ago, did not single out any politician by name, but he was a high profile critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, branding the future president as a “con” and “demagogue.”

The Washington Post has documented more than 3,000 false or misleading statements made by Trump since he took office in January.

Elected officials who promote alternate realities along with those who let it happen and don’t say anything — are creating one of the most serious dangers facing democracies, said Bloomberg told the Rice graduates. As an example, he cited climate change and the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels, is accelerating global warming.

Still, Bloomberg said, some federal agencies have banned workers from using the words “climate change,” showing that officials at the highest levels of power see the plain truth as a threat, he said.

“They fear it. They deny it. And they attack it, just as the communists once did,” Bloomberg said. “And so here we are, in the midst of an epidemic of dishonesty, and an endless barrage of lies.”

Free societies depend on citizens who recognize deceit in government, Bloomberg said. He told Rice graduates to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethics, urging them to keep their minds open and follow the evidence wherever it might lead.

“Listen to people you disagree with without trying to censor them or shout over them,” he said. “And have the courage to say things that your own side does not want to hear.”

lynn.sixel@chron.com

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