Jake Tapper: 'The very notion of empirical fact is being attacked and corroded'

Jake Tapper gives the keynote address during the University of Massachusetts' 148th undergraduate commencement ceremony Friday, May 11, 2018, in Amherst, Mass. (Mark M. Murray /The Republican via AP)

Washington (CNN)CNN's Jake Tapper urged graduating students to be kind to one another and to be critical and independent thinkers in a commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In his address on Friday, Tapper described the United States as a country where some people are "only listening to the politicians or the news media, and in some cases, the members of their family or their friends with whom they agree," and warned that "the very notion of empirical fact is being attacked and corroded."
Against that backdrop, Tapper implored graduates to instead "use the critical thinking skills" they have learned in the classroom and "resist the temptation to subject yourself only to that which re-affirms what you already think."
"People decide about an article's validity based only on its headline or the language in the tweet linking to it. They judge books by their covers," Tapper said. "I urge you to read the story. I urge you to think for yourself. I urge you to click the link."
    Tapper also spoke at length about the importance of civility, decency and treating people with respect at a time when, as he put it in his speech, "nastiness and mockery and meanness sometimes seem as if they're spreading like a contagion."
    "I realize that the nation right now is not exactly getting a crash course in exemplary behavior," he said, adding that "we are in a time now where we cannot look to Washington to exemplify the standards of behavior we want to teach our children."
    Tapper called on graduates to "be nice to each other. Embrace the humanity of everyone, especially those you don't understand."
    "You know what takes effort? Being kind. Being patient. Being respectful," he said.
    "Telling someone how you feel politely instead of just avoiding them for six weeks -- that's the stuff of adulthood," Tapper said. "When you rise to the moment to embrace the humanity of everyone, you give yourself a chance to grow and achieve a strength of character."