Archive for August, 2017

Wisdom from Washington, finally

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a commencement address recently. It wasn’t Ivy League or even SEC. It was his son’s middle school graduation.

As most wisdom does, Roberts’ remarks turned conventional thinking on its head in a profoundly simple way. Most graduation speeches wish for the best. Roberts’ speech wished for the worst.

“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.”

Roberts continued to wish bad luck for his listeners – so they would understand their “success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.” He also hoped they’d be periodically ignored, so their own listening skills would improve.

Speaking amidst an increasingly pompous culture, Roberts wished not just failure for the students, but also for their opponents to gloat over them. Then, he said, they would more greatly appreciate the virtue of sportsmanship.

And since the young men were finishing up at a prestigious New Hampshire boarding school, Roberts told them to recognize they were privileged but not to act like it.

“When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to the person who is raking the leaves, shoveling the snow or emptying the trash. Learn their name and call them by their name during your time at the school.”

Roberts knows the entitlement mentality can attack the privileged as much as it can attack the impoverished. He also knows it will lead to the demise of our nation.

If the world owes me something because of the family into which I was born, or because of the largeness – or smallness – of my bank account, I will not work; I will not strive to earn. The payment is already due.

Extrapolate the point across a country or across a generation and you’ll end up with an unproductive society. The “due tos” will surpass the “due froms” and insolvency is just around the corner.

“What did you do this weekend?” I asked a mid-twenties millennial at my company.

“Mostly played video games,” he answered. The young man works hard five days a week. A few video games on the weekend are probably in order.

For others, the ratio is reversed. A couple of days of hard work entitles them to five days of unwinding.

We all would do well to remember the starting thesis of Dr. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Travelled: Life is difficult. It’s one problem to be solved after the next. It requires organization, diligence and perseverance.

And that, I think, was Justice Roberts’ point: Embrace adversity.

The successful life isn’t one void of challenges. It’s one that’s shaped by them. Sometimes they harden us. Sometimes they soften us. Always they strengthen us.


Kevin Thompson can be reached at


From the mouths of babes

It’s time for quotable kid quotes a la the late Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” I usually capture them for our family Christmas card, but with five young minds going many miles an hour, there’s plenty for a mid-year helping.

“What are you giving up for lent?” I asked our thirteen-year-old last spring. “Church,” he replied with a mischievous middle school smile. Then, more maturely, “Instagram.”

Our seven-year-old son was catch-and-release fishing recently. When we couldn’t get a deep hook out of one fish’s mouth, we cut the line and threw it back with the hook still in. He observed, “That fish now has a nose ring.”

His twin sister heard her voice bounce off a stone wall. “It made a gecko!”

During a recent rain shower, she saw a rainbow while driving down Interstate 10. “There’s a rainbow!” she said with excitement. The road noise kept her twin brother from hearing her clearly.

“Where’s Rambo?” he asked.

At a restaurant dinner, I explained that the drinks were not free. “You pretty much have to pay for everything you get in life,” I said so as to not pass up a teachable moment.

A seven-year-old needed clarity, “What about if you find it?”

His eight-year-old brother asked a brilliant question related to a retail industry turned on its head by e-commerce: “Does everything at JC Penney’s cost a penny?”

Speaking of money, the twins got some from their grandparents for their birthday. Our son opened the envelope and concluded the $50 check was solely for him. When I explained otherwise, he whined, “But 5 is an odd number; how do you split it?”

When we visited a friend’s church, our eight-year-old noticed a similarity between their minister and ours. “Do you have to be bald to be a preacher?” he inquired.

A few nights ago, I told his little brother to go to bed. His response: “But I haven’t yawned yet!”

His sister tried to bend the rules, too.

Dad: “Did you brush your teeth?”

Daughter: “Uhh, yeah.”

Dad: ”Are you telling the truth?”

Daughter, walking towards the bathroom: “I think I didn’t. Thank you, Dad.”

My pleasure.

Later, as I tucked her into bed, she “didn’t want to use the f-word” to describe an overweight school friend. Instead, she said “he had a big tummy.”

One morning I asked her if she would like some strawberries in her raisin bran. “No, thanks,” she said. “I’m not a grown-up yet.”

“I wish my birthday was on September 25,” our eight-year-old confided. When I asked why, he remarked as if I was missing something obvious, “Because it’s Christmas!”

It’s not just dates we get turned around. It’s words, as well.

“Mom, I need some sand hanitizer.”

“Dad, where should I put the kitty glitter?”

One time I heard this version of This Little Light of Mine:

“Hide it under the bushes, NO!”

It’s not just words we get wrong. It’s numbers, two. (Sic!)

“I know the firefighters’ pass code! It’s 1-1-9!”

And sometimes it’s the letters we get turned around, as in this text from my angel:

“i love you bab”

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