Finding Inspiration from 2017?


New Years baby 2018

A year of turmoil. That’s how I would describe 2017. Even in turmoil there are moments of clarity of spirit and purpose which can inspire. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts gave the commencement address at his son’s ninth-grade graduation in June. Reading his words inspired me. Here are parts of it I would like to share with you.

 Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes. 

The Greek philosopher Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ And while ‘just do it’ might be a good motto for some things, it’s not a good motto when it’s trying to figure out how to live your life that is before you. And one important clue to living a good life is to not to try to live the good life. The best way to lose the values that are central to who you are is frankly not to think about them at all. 

So that’s the deep advice. Now some tips as you get ready to go to your new school. Over the last couple of years, I have gotten to know many of you young men pretty well, and I know you are good guys. But you are also privileged young men. And if you weren’t privileged when you came here, you are privileged now because you have been here. My advice is: Don’t act like it. 

When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to the person who is raking the leaves, shoveling the snow or emptying the trash. Learn their name and call them by their name during your time at the school. Another piece of advice: When you pass by people you don’t recognize on the walks, smile, look them in the eye and say hello. The worst thing that will happen is that you will become known as the young man who smiles and says hello, and that is not a bad thing to start with. 

The last bit of advice I’ll give you is very simple, but I think it could make a big difference in your life. Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email; a note on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly 10 minutes. By the end of the school year, you will have sent notes to 40 people. Forty people will feel a little more special because you did, and they will think you are very special because of what you did.

I would like to end by reading some important lyrics. I cited the Greek philosopher Socrates earlier. These lyrics are from the great American philosopher, Bob Dylan. They’re almost 50 years old. He wrote them for his son, Jesse, who he was missing while he was on tour. It lists the hopes that a parent might have for a son and for a daughter. They’re also good goals for a son and a daughter. The wishes are beautiful, they’re timeless. They’re universal. They’re good and true, except for one: It is the wish that gives the song its title and its refrain. That wish is a parent’s lament. It’s not a good wish. So these are the lyrics from Forever Young by Bob Dylan: 

May God bless you and keep you always

May your wishes all come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

And may you stay forever young


May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

And may you stay forever young


May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful

May your song always be sung

And may you stay forever young.

 That is how Chief Justice Roberts ended his speech.

Dear Readers, thank you for taking the time to read the thoughts and stories I’ve shared this past year. Without you to share them with, there would be little purpose for my writing. May all of us be the type of parents, grandparents and people we aspire to be in 2018.

2 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration from 2017?

  1. Nicholas Noel III

    Very good, Kurt. The Chief Justice was ‘right on’, to borrow a phrase from that time period! Now in my new digs in Bethlehem and gazing out at the Lehigh Gap in Palmerton on the Blue Mountain. Hope the holidays were joyful.



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