But it doesn’t have to be this way. For as many boastful conversations I’ve overheard before classes about the latest and greatest summary website are students who without ceremony, but with care, place a single canned good into a hurricane relief donation box. For as many students as I have seen send texts in class are students who initiate a fundraiser and donate to help a single father of eight make it through the holiday season. For as many students as I have seen suck their teeth at the thought of another 100-page reading assignment are students who stay late and come early to tutor those who struggle. I have seen so much good in you, so much potential. The world has counted you out. But the world has got it wrong.
David Orr, an ecological literacy advocate, once wrote “the plain fact is that the planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” As you leave the university’s hallways and smart classroom with your degrees, you will begin to define success for your generation. How quickly you line up for the next new iToy or Smart Thing, how much you spend on your first home, your wedding, your children, will determine how right my generation, and your parents’ generation was about your worth. You do not have to be an accounting, a list of items on a Best Buy receipt. You can leave here today and tell the world by deed and by word what it means to live well, to love with conviction, to heal with compassion, and to make peace where once there was war.