You, the gentlemen of the graduating class, have experienced life on campus as members of the minority. I hope they didn't give you too hard a time. At least this may have given you an appreciation for the importance of preserving the rights of the few. Democracy is devoted to the idea that everyone, not just the majority, deserves a voice. My brothers were taught as boys to open the door for the ladies, a practice they were happy to forget about in the advent of the Women's Movement. At the leadership level now, however, chivalry of a new sort is called for. I hope when you encounter the success you deserve, and the discrepancy I have talked about, you will respond with speed and grace. The door should be opened for the ladies, the boardroom door, and our gentlemen will have to do it. We all need to be given opportunities, and then we have to disregard all of the statistics that predict we're not likely to reach our goal. Success is often provided by the exception to the Rules for Success. People who have broken through color and gender lines, class and cultural bias, have done so despite an array of reasons as to why they shouldn't be able to do so. In this way, success may ultimately have more to do with your own personality, focus, and optimism than your gender, race or background. Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head. Guard your good mood. Listen to music every day, joke, and love and read more for fun especially poetry.

And now I'm going to read you a poem, because I believe that every solemn, joyous, tedious and important rite of passage should and must be celebrated and elevated by poetry.

This is "Begin," by Brendan Kennelly.

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

And lastly, as to the whole sad thing with the Old Man of the Mountain; 200 years ago, Daniel Webster remarked of the rocky crag: "God has hung out a sign to show that in New England he makes Men." I say, "Hmmm.maybe God is changing the sign."

The mountains may crumble
Gibraltar may crumble
They're only made of clay, But-
Our love is here-to stay!

I speak for all here who send you out into your future with love, respect for your hard work, and high happy hopes for each and every one of you. Good luck, and thank you.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus