‘Tis the season, that time of year when people of letters are selected to address graduating classes all over the country.It’s a time of wise words and grand visions and deep thoughts about finding a passion and expanding your reach. Of serving and helping and, above all, striving to make the world a better place.
Many such words are spoken at this time of year, be them to college graduates or high school graduates or any students who are formally moving on to the next stage of their lives. And as we ponder those words, we are drawn to a speech delivered last week by Drew Faust, president of Harvard University.Speaking at a baccalaureate service to the university’s Class of 2013, Faust drew upon the recent Boston Marathon bombings. She invoked the images of those who, upon hearing and seeing the blasts, ran toward the carnage in order to assist the victims. She talked about something in the human condition that leads some among us, the finest among us, to run toward trouble rather than away from it.
And in the process, she delivered words that can resonate with graduates of all ages and educational levels.
“‘Running toward’ is a way of being, an attitude, a capacity for courage, a kind of grace,” Faust said.
“So much of your education has been about the next question, the critical stance, the discerning and skeptical eye. But it has also been about taking risks, daring to commit. … The best kind of learning does not train you to win. It teaches you to ask what winning might mean. It cultivates curiosity and courage and boldness … and it gives you a new capacity to act, despite the risks.”
Many, many commencement addresses have been delivered over the years, each of them urging graduates to live full lives, to keep learning, to help others. And you don’t need to be graduating from Harvard to take these words to heart. Graduation is an ending and yet a beginning. An acknowledgement of accomplishment, and yet a call to go forth and share what you have learned.
Graduation is a mandate to continue bettering yourself and using that betterment to improve those with whom you come into contact.
“It means running toward not just your own dreams but running toward where you can help,” Faust said. “As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote 50 years ago this spring, ‘I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.’
“Not everyone is prepared to run toward an explosion. But each of you is exquisitely suited, and urgently needed, for something.”
That is a truism that stretches all the way across the country, from Boston to Vancouver. That is a truism that applies to graduates throughout Clark County this month.
And so, to those graduates, we say that you are needed. You are talented. You are gifted. You have accomplished something significant, and that accomplishment carries with it some requirements.
“How do we know if we are ever running toward the right thing? Toward the good thing?” Faust asked.
“You might pursue your passion, purely for the love of doing it, and then get swept up into something of larger significance. You might be asked to enter a new arena, with far more at stake.”
Because you never know what might lie ahead in your life. And you’ll never find out unless you run toward it.