Good words for grads
College commencement season has carried its usual share of campus controversies, including a protest from Haverford College students over a scheduled speaker and the resulting rebuke it earned from the former Princeton president.
The addresses also delivered the usual dose of commencement wisdom. A sampling:
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, at Wake Forest University:
Some of you have faced danger or even a soul-scorching loss, but most of you haven’t. And leaving the protective cocoon of school for the working world must seem scary. You will have a dozen different jobs and will try different things. Sure, losing a job you love hurts, but the work I revere, journalism that holds powerful institutions and people accountable, is what makes our democracy so resilient. And this is the work I will remain very much a part of.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos quarterback, at the University of Virginia:
There are some people who will criticize your generation’s altruism as childlike fantasy. Yet you’re the generation who can put ethics and values back in vogue again. You’re the generation that can challenge leaders in business, government and other professions based not solely on the bottom line, but also on what’s good for your community, and others halfway around the globe.
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell:
Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t. Respect their knowledge and learn from them. It will bring out the best in all of you.
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, at Grove City College: If you feel inspired to serve your fellow citizens, don’t let the ugliness of politics keep you from pursuing public office. There is always room for informed, engaged, passionate leaders at every level of government.
Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland, at Indiana University-Bloomington:
The critical capacity to challenge false inevitabilities will serve you well on your journey. May you not only acquire and retain critical consciousness, but my wish for you is that you also retain a sense of wonder, of possibilities that are never fully contained, never exhausted.
A solid backup plan
South Bend’s power came back on early Sunday afternoon. At an Irish pub called Fiddler’s Hearth, the South Bend Tribune reported, they passed out Breton Sunrises, an orange and cider drink, and the brunch entertainment group sang Here Comes the Sun.
Late the Thursday before, an underground fire had knocked out electric service to almost the entire downtown area just as South Bend hotels and restaurants were gearing up to host thousands of visitors for weekend commencement programs at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College.
Businesses worked together to find and share refrigerator trucks, generators and other resources to get through the crisis.
The cause of the blaze, which destroyed 4,000 feet of copper cable, is still unknown.
But for other communities, the lesson is pretty clear. Have contingency plans for just about anything, any time.
Rokita gets a lesson at hearing
Marian Wright Edelman’s work on behalf of poor children is legendary. The founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund has been an advocate for racial justice and economic equality since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Her impeccable credentials made her an obvious choice to testify before the U.S. House’s Budget Committee when Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, held a hearing earlier this month. Ryan is pushing a new approach in addressing poverty, arguing that President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program is not working.
But Edelman told the committee that good, strong progress has been made over the past 50 years and that government must stay the course and resist those who say the War on Poverty has not worked.
She ended with a moving story about the inspiration for her life’s work: a young black boy who said he had no future – nothing to lose.
I have spent the last 50 years and will spend the rest of my life trying to prove that boy’s truth wrong in our economically powerful and militarily powerful but spiritually poor nation, said the distinguished speaker.
It was the testimony of Robert Woodson, however, that impressed Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana. Woodson, formerly a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, espouses a tough-love approach to curing poverty and he criticized the government’s approach as wasteful.
Rokita called Woodson a breath of fresh air, and attempted to school Edelman.
A heavy-handed federal response to poverty only exacerbates the problem, said the former Indiana secretary of state. Then he turned to the witnesses.
Your work is great, please adapt to it, Mrs. Edelman, he commanded.
No, sir, she sternly replied.