The Road from Commencement

My son, my mother and I traveled to Denver on Sunday, spent the night, then did a little shopping and some evaluating of a training program before returning last evening.

We took an unconventional route to Denver that took about 6 1/2 hours to complete, with stops in Montrose and Salida. My mother had never been past Montrose on Highway 50, so I thought that the scenery of Blue Mesa (especially the Dillon Pinnacles), Monarch Pass, and the high plains of Park County would be an interesting and welcome respite from the “usual” views afforded when traveling I-70. I like Salida (a lot), and so did she, especially Riverside Park with the Arkansas moving rafters and kayakers swiftly by.

On these long road trips, I am grateful for the variety offered by satellite radio. We were checking the various news channels trying to see if any of them were airing President Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, and while we could not find one that was airing the complete speech we found plenty of excerpts, including when he was interrupted by hecklers.

As it happens, upon returning home and checking my usual news links, I ran across a commencement address that may have been largely overlooked by the MSM, but was an incredibly moving and thoughtful speech, not by a politician, learned scholar, but by an entertainer.

John Legend‘s address to this year’s graduates of his alma mater, Penn, contained some truly inspirational passages. While also touching upon current events, he challenged the Class of ’09 to pursue truth. A simple and profound goal, many might say, but when you contemplate the last several years it’s easy to see why a reminder is sometimes necessary. Here’s a sample:

Too often we become apathetic. We see the lies, we see the obfuscation, the deception. But we fail to point it out.

We’re afraid to rain on the parade. Afraid to rock the boat. Afraid to pursue the truth.

While your education here at Penn does not require that you are a spokesperson for any particular cause, you now have the resources and skills, the privilege and yes, hopefully, the passion, to pursue the truth. To be witnesses of today and for tomorrow. To speak truth to power. And to speak the truth on behalf of the powerless.

Sometimes there isn’t a single answer. But there is always the truth.

Now, I don’t assume that the word “truth” is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of “democracy” and “justice,” I believe it is quite rare to find.

It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening.

The speech is about 13 minutes long, and is well worth reading and listening to. You can do both by clicking here.

Part of our trip to Denver was dedicated to going to the Apple Store and picking out a computer for Evan’s graduation present. I told him that I saved the money to get him this so he would have the necessary tools to properly embark on his post-secondary education, and neither these important years nor the material tools he has to help navigate them should be squandered on things that do not enrich his life.

Like the graduates of Notre Dame and Penn, I hope he gets the message.

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