Students across the nation are once again going through that rite of passage known as graduation. Unfortunately for too many (and one is too many), what they get in a commencement speaker is someone far too interested in politics and not in the students they come to campus to address and inspire.
In the interest of presenting a model for those who would one day address graduates, I offer up this speech by former White House speechwriter William McGurn.
Let me end with a little story. It happened during Pope Benedict’s recent visit to the United States. On the day before he returned to Rome, Benedict traveled to St. Joseph’s Seminary just outside Manhattan, where he was introduced to 50 handicapped children. These children had been waiting patiently in the chapel for hours, some of them in wheelchairs. Two of these children – 11-year-old Lauren Kurtz, and 7-year-old Caitlin Manno – were selected to walk up to the Holy Father to present him with a painting on behalf of all those in the room.
Now, Lauren suffers from Down’s, and Caitlin from cerebral palsy. Yet as these two handicapped girls approached the Holy Father in their Sunday dresses, something wondrous happened: In their shining faces, the television cameras gave the world a glimmer of how Our Lord must see them: innocent, trusting, radiant. Lauren gave the Holy Father a big hug – and then observed that Caitlin had somehow been left behind at the bottom edge of the altar. So Lauren Marie Kurtz stepped back to help her up. And thus did these two girls approach the Vicar of Christ, with Lauren’s arm steadying her little friend. For all who had eyes to see, this was the completely natural act of a pure heart whose only concern was for another.
My young friends, this is what our Lord meant when he told us that we must be as the children. And this is my challenge to you as you take your place in our world: Where you see innocence, protect it. Where you see longing and loneliness, be the outstretched arm that breaks through the pain. And in everything you do – as husband, as wife … as mother or father … as a friend or co-worker – let the world see a reflection of the grace and goodness of the humble man from Nursia whose name this college so proudly bears.
If you do these things, you may not end up rich or famous. But you will bring joy to world in desperate in need of joy … you will love and you will be loved … and amid the noise and muddle and disappointment of whatever life throws your way, you will know what it means to hear the angels sing.
Read the whole thing.