At The Catholic University of America’s May 2017 commencement ceremony, Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, gave graduates a simple piece of advice: Read books.

“I humbly urge you to embark on a lifelong relationship with a faithful companion who will always help you and sometimes delight you — who will never desert you, who will make you smarter, and wiser, who will always be by your side and enlighten you all the days of your life,” Noonan said. “I am talking about: books.”


“If you seek a happy and interesting life, one of depth, meaning and accomplishment, you must read books,” she continued.

Noonan commented on what she saw during the 2016 presidential campaign trail. Among the young politicians and journalists she met, “it became clear in long conversations that they’ve received most of what they know about history and the meaning of things through screens,” she said.

“I know this: If you cannot read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you cannot think deeply you will not be able to lead well. And all of you deep down, in whatever areas and whatever ways, hope to lead,” Noonan said.

“So, unplug and read every day,” she said.

“Read and be taken away in a way that enriches, that strengthens, that makes you smarter, more serious, more worthy,” she said. “Civilization depends on it.”