Peter's post on the front page prompted me to share with you my commencement address. I'm the alumni speaker this year for U.T. Tyler, my alma mater, and therefore there's a requirement to plug the alumni association at the end, so forgive that. I've been reading Coming Apart, which will be apparent as you read the speech. With regard to my plug for industriousness---my wife is the most industrious person I know, and it's a word I've used to describe her for years. I give this next Saturday, so if you see a glaring mistake, please tell me. (Please note I have a 4 minute time constraint, which this barely fits.)
When you exit these halls in a few moments, donning the sartorial indicia of learning (a cheap black robe and a mortarboard), you will do so having reached the pinnacle of your education, ironically at a time when the West, from which this great university was begotten, seems determined to reach for and grasp its nadir.
What to do?
Let me challenge each of you to embody three traits which made the West great, and which in turn will bring you personal joy and peace: industriousness, devotion to family, and wisdom.
Be industrious people. Be industrious!
As you begin working for your respective employers, give them an honest day’s work for your pay. Don’t goof off on facebook for three hours a day. Work hard to cultivate your business, and seek to make your own way. Don’t be content to just clock-in and clock-out.
But don’t let your industriousness end at 5:00. Be industrious, and intentional, at home. Be industrious around your house---do some or all of your own yard work; do some or all of your own home repairs. The average American watches 35 hours of television a week. Thirty five hours! Dear friend, if you do that, you are not industrious at home; you’re not devoted to your family, but to cable. And speaking of family: Be devoted and intentional with your wife or husband. Be devoted and intentional with your children.
In your drive toward industriousness and devotion, though, seek also wisdom. Whenever I attend a graduation I think of two figures: Faust and Solomon. In the Faust legend the great scholar obtains doctorates in philosophy, medicine, the law, and theology. Having learned as much as any man could, Faust falls into despair and declares that he knows nothing. And in his despair, Faust becomes susceptible to wickedness and evil. He was a man who knew no joy and found no peace, because he sought only knowledge.
Solomon, on the other hand, sought wisdom. “Much study and many books,” he said “is a weariness to the body.” Indeed. And if you’ve graduated from this university with a decent GPA, you know that to be true, as U.T. Tyler has not succumbed to the cancer of grade inflation. Solomon teaches us that knowledge alone does not satisfy. So in the coming weeks and months particularly, as you begin life in the so-called real world, seek wisdom from your parents (you’ll be amazed at how much smarter they’ve become in the last few years), and find mentors who can help you on your walk through life.
If you live a life of industriousness, devotion to family, and wisdom, you will leave a legacy that lasts for generations. Hopefully, the time, money, and endless study you spent here has already taught you these things, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for you.
“Alma mater,” as many of you know, means “nourishing mother.” Now, you know mothers…. They’re sensitive about their brood moving out and never calling again. Well, your school is the same way. Just as the things you do reflect on your mom, your future accomplishments reflect on your university.
So let me encourage you to maximize the value of your degree by keeping in touch with your school. Join the alumni association. You get a year free. It will enable you to make business & personal contacts. And honestly, ten and twenty years from now, as our school in the woods continues to grow and succeed, you’ll be able to look back with pride, knowing that your time here played a critical role in the cultivation of our university. And your school will likewise be able to look at you with a mother’s eye and be proud of your success.