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 kevin@kwt.info.



1 Response to “Wisdom from Washington, finally”

  1. 1 Mr Gonzalez August 1, 2017 at 22:38

    Great article Mr Thompson!!
    Thanks for sharing

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