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The Best Commencement Address Ever?

Jim McLoughlin


I am going to interrupt the career-counseling theme of this blog series for these next two weeks to address the matter of how to more effectively meet our responsibilities to our children... because we will all be judged accordingly. 


f1d32bfb0c8895bc8852cb090782f317-.jpgSupreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave the 2008 commencement address to the graduates at the University of Georgia. It has been judged, by some, as worthy of being considered to be the best commencement address given in our time.


Because commencement addresses are, in reality, the final "send-off" we give our children as they pass from their school days into true adulthood -- I have designated this address to be the first of two week's topics on this subject of our children.


Following are the five lifestyle suggestions (edited for brevity) that Justice Thomas recommends that we adults first live by and then pass on to our children. Each has a special application to the world of the golf course superintendent. (Italics, text in parentheses and bold text below are mine.)



Do Your Best To Be Your Best

by Clarence Thomas


First:  Show Gratitude and Appreciation. None of you, not one of you, made it here entirely on your own. There are people in your lives who gave you birth, who raised you and loved you, even when you were not so lovable. Thank the people who put up with your antics and loved you through it all. Thank the people who paid your tuition and your expenses. There are those who were compassionate enough to tell you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear. Take some time today to thank them all. Don't put it off; some of us did.


Second:  Be Trustworthy and Honest. If you can't be trusted with small matters, how can you be trusted with important ones? It may be hard to be honest, but it is never wrong. For my part, I can only work with honest people. I need to be able to trust them, and so will you. I tell my law clerks, I want my work done right and I want it on time. No matter what you do, do it right and do it on time.


Third:  Stay Positive. There will be many around you who are cynical and negative. These cause cancers of the spirit and they add nothing worthwhile. Don't inhale their secondhand cynicism and negativism. Some will complain and grieve ceaselessly. It may be fair to ask them just what they themselves are perfect at.


Fourth:  Always Have Good Manners. This is a time-honored tradition and trait; it is not old-fashioned. Good manners will open doors that nothing else will. And given the choice between two competent persons, most of us will opt to hire the one with good manners. For example, no matter what older adults say about calling them by their first names, don't. Believe me, they remember, and not as kindly as you might think. I thank God my grandparents made me put a handle on grown folks' names and taught me to say 'please' and 'thank you'.


Fifth:  Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated. Indeed, when others hurt you, you may well be required to treat them far better than they treated you and far better than human nature would suggest they deserve. Be better than they are.


Help others as you wanted and needed to be helped. If you want to receive kindness, respect, and compassion, you must first give them. But to do that, you must first have them yourselves to give.


There are no guarantees in life, but even with all its uncertainties and challenges it is worth living the right way. As you commence the next chapter in your young lives, I urge you to do your best to be your best. Each of you is a precious building block for your families, your university, your communities, and our great country. It is truly up to each of you to decide exactly what kind of building blocks you will be.



For further reading of compelling commencement addresses, consider Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses by Zev Chafetz.


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