We have these ceremonies in the spring. We do so to celebrate a successful
ending, but we call them commencements. Endings indeed commence new life, new
worlds. The overture and opening act of your personal story is done: From here,
the main action of your adult life begins. Good luck, all you darlings, and good
In the end --and it will end-- your life will seem to have sped by like a
fleeting dream. Much of your story will be the age-old but ever joyful human
experience: romance, family, satisfying work, and happy completion. I wish you a
great fountain of successes. You will also be provided with all the failures and
tragedies necessary to deepen and widen your soul --sufficient, I hope, to make
you wise and forgiving of all human frailties. I pray that these necessary
troubles will never long crush your optimism nor your love for this magical
The greatest danger before you is this: you live in an age when people would
package and standardize your life for you --steal it from you and sell it back
to you at a price. That price is very high. You have already been selected for
this program. You have its credit cards and designer labels already expensively
around you. In the months ahead, you will find yourselves working long hours,
too exhausted for community life or even good friendships --too compromised to
take a stand against the abuses of the system you serve. A great treadmill has
been devised for you, and its operators do not care much if it wears you out or
kills you. A system is in place to steal your life from you, if you will let
it. Don't let it.
Read, study, meditate and think for yourself. Let your most serious
education now commence, if it has not already done so. Refine and hold your own
values, and pay the high price necessary to live those values. Decide what is
important to you, and hold your ground against all temptations and tortures.
From the pink granite of your own values, build a fortress against the world's
ethical compromises, or you will soon be among those dead of eye who stand next
to you in elevators but who are not alive. Don't let them steal your life.
This is the only warning you will receive.
On my long walk across America, a young carpenter from Chicago came to walk
with me for many months. He and a friend in college had pledged to each other
that they would, all their lives, spend at least one day a week doing something
they thought important to the world or to their communities. Nick
has been arrested protesting what he believes to be America's immoral
training of brutal army squads for South American regimes. He has protested for
social justice and for clean elections. He was arrested at the Republican
Convention in Philadelphia last year, just calmly walking down a street. He
rotted in a cell for two weeks where people were severely abused by the police.
Nick is a free man in a land where few people have claimed their freedom to live
a life that represents their values.
I am not suggesting that you all need to be protesters and to get arrested
to be free, but you need to stand up for your values, and you will be surprised
at the trouble that will get you into today. I was arrested for reading the Bill
of Rights in a calm voice in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. You will be surprised at
what happens when you dare to be free. But you will never be sorry you dared to
For free you must be. It is your duty as an American. It is where true
happiness is to be pursued and found. Nick and I and so many others are happy
when we meet. We have stories to tell. We are free people in a land that is free
to us, because we have dared to be free in it. The fate of the earth's
environment is at risk in your generation. Prison industries are spreading over
the land. A new kind of colonialism of our towns and cities is afoot by
companies that can and do crush our local businesses and buy our elections and
destroy our natural environment. You will participate in these and a hundred
other issues, on one side or the other. Fight hard for whichever sides you
choose. All I ask is that your decision --your life-- be the product and the
strategy of your deepest values.
As your generation begins its turn at the helm, my generation fades away. We
have done what we could, imperfectly, for each other and for democracy. Endings
commence new life, new worlds. From here, the main action of your adult life
begins. Good luck, all you darlings, and to your friends and your countrymen.
Thank you. [Doris's other speeches are available at http://grannyd.com ]