May 15, 2011
It has been my unlikely and unbelievable privilege to come off the bench-indeed out of the stands-to spend some time as your observant colleague in these last few months of your Davidson sojourn. I have found it very instructive just to listen to things that have been written or said by members of this class as you have prepared to move on.
In particular, two quotations have stuck in my mind which I'd like to repeat to you, followed by a thought that has recurred in my thinking time and again over these recent days.
So: three brief statements in all, through which Davidson College can bid you farewell.
Number one: a fragment from a statement written by one of your classmates in interpreting her senior project to those of us who were eager to understand her motivation and her thesis. She wrote in the introduction to her work of "the beautiful impermanence of our existence."
The beautiful impermanence of our existence. You probably shy away from pondering that at age 22 even more than those of us a half century older are wont to do. But it's no less true for you than for me. Life is impermanent-we are never allowed completely to forget that-but it's also exquisitely beautiful. That's thought number one.
And number two: a favorite quote from the poet Mary Oliver, that I heard at least two of you use to great effect in different settings in the course of this semester. It's from her poem "The Summer Day," and it raises the question which you should assume that Davidson College will be whispering in your ear from this day forward:
"Tell me," she writes,
"what it is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? That's thought number two.
And then number three.
My recurrent thought in my brief encounter with you has been this:
The value of life, when all is said and done, is more likely to be reckoned by what you believe in and what you love, rather than by what you know and even what you do.
Now I know that's surely subject to debate; but I urge you to give it some thought, if not just now, then sometime when you want to test your sense of purpose.
The value of life is more likely to be reckoned
by what you believe in and what you love
rather than by what you know and even what you do.
Take some time to figure that out, and get back to us later.
We really can't wait to hear.