Farewell to Graduates

October 11, 2009

What a handsome crowd of our graduates gathered at Kroc Center on Friday, October 9, 2009. Everyone shining with joy, smiling, radiating! Far from exams, home works, deadlines and such! Congratulations, my students, to a great  academic achievement.100209 platt grad 030

My farewell and wish for you is this:

On your new journey – think of the magnificent pyramids of Egypt. Think of the thousands of people diligently building a tomb for their king, a pyramid. Most of the people were not slaves, but paid workers happily pursuing their ideal: To show their talents and diligence, to impress posterity, to honor the beauty and joy of life, to leave something meaningful behind. Today, 5,ooo years later, we stand at awe by the Nile river  gazing over the Giza Plateau beautified by the wonders of pyramids. The undaunted builders demonstrated unprecedented vision that had no space for a thought of a failure. They were simply pursuing a great ideal.

What about ancient Greeks? Their ideal of human ability was measured at the Olympic stadium, in their poems, songs, temples, sculptures, dramas, philosophical debates. What an ideal! To show a human ability and beauty balanced  inside out, to show that talent, coupled with diligence and perseverance, brings unthinkable fruit transforming us eternally.

Think of the Gothic cathedral of Paris reaching the sky with its gray, slender spires. They almost reach heaven with the unprecedented employment of reason and skill of talented people, who were pursuing the ideal of accomplishment by putting up dizzily high edifice to prove to God that yes, we are worthy.

Think of Marco Polo, who was pursuing his ideal for seventeen years: to know the world and to share his stretched horizons with others. Not once he admits in his book  a though of a failure. And what chance did he have to succeed? Almost none. Instead, he had his vision and unshakable faith in his ideal.

What about Renaissance Italy? Is there anyone in the  world who does not want to visit Rome, Florence, Venice? We all admire these cities no matter if we visited them or not. They are our pride, they were built on our common ideal: the ideals of diligence, beauty and human rich heritage of sophisticated reasonable men.

Think of the English philosopher John Lock, the mentor of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. John Lock was the first in the  modern times to define our most sacred ideal: the ideal that all people are equal and have a right to pursuit happiness. Such ideal was applied in the French and American Revolutions and demonstrated in the fall of Berlin wall, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and all of the victorious revolutions for your and mine victory. The only inspiration was a greatly defined vision and the strength to pursuit it.

And yes, you may object: What about the people who destroy in the name of their ideals?  I know, my students, that you easily recognize that  the ideals that offend, hurst and bring dispair have nothing to do with humanity. They are detached from our beautiful sensible world. And we can do nothing but stay firmly on our feet while defending ideals that uplift and enrich our spirits, contribute to peace, common welfare and beauty of our precious life.

Do I hear that you did not meet your ideal yet? Do not worry. It is with you right now. Perhaps dormant. Perhaps in its infancy. Perhaps too shy. It is your duty, my students, to wake it up, to jostle it, to ruffle its wings, and to bring it to life. The sooner, the better. The quicker, the better. You can easily wake it up by living a full life. By seeking beauty and inspiration. By appreciating education, culture, history and achievement of others. Once you feel your ideal awakens within you: listen carefully. That is your moment since without  your ideal you are lost as a small boat on an open thunderous sea.

Everyone started as you did: perfecting one’s talent, sharpening one’s knowledge and listening to the slowly awaking ideal: Michelangelo, Beethoven, J.F.Kennedy, M. Luther, your favorite teacher, your favorite artist, your mom who believed in you and did everything so you can stand here today ready to get your academic degree.

Ideals have no chosen ones and no limits. You have no limits in its pursuit. Chase them. Chase them and be good to them. You owe it to all of us and we owe it to you.

Thank you, my students, and congratulation.