Thursday, December 21, 2017

Start With Compassion

As you may have been able to tell from some of my other blog entries this December, the current climate in our country troubles me.  A lot. 

In case you missed it, check out “Where Have All the Mensches Gone?”

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.  But being a parent of two teenagers gives it all extra resonance for me.

My wife and I have always raised our kids to believe that good will ultimately win out over evil, love over hate, and honesty over deceit.  Our kids are not naïve and understand that people often fail to live up to this ideal.  But if they themselves govern their actions by doing what is honest, and fair, and kind, and honorable, they will not only feel better about the people they are, but will also help raise the bar for those around them.

So it is with that background as context that I want to share with you something I just read about this week. 

In a ceremony last weekend honoring December graduates of Cornell University, President Martha E. Pollack delivered a commencement address to the graduates and their families.  In it, she disclosed that in preparation for making her remarks, she consulted a website, maintained by NPR, called “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever!”  (

Of the 350 speeches catalogued there, the ones that resonated most with her were those that addressed the social and societal issues of the day, and offered the students guidance in meeting the challenges facing the society they were entering.

So what was President Pollack’s suggestion for how the graduates could position themselves to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world?  She boiled it down to this:

“Start with compassion.  With understanding.  With kindness and with love.”

Much of society’s most difficult problems today stem from divisiveness in our communities and in the broader society.  Until we can reach out, connect and communicate with those who are different from us and with different points of view, we will continue to be opposing forces, rather than rowing together in the same direction for the betterment of our country as a whole.

Near the end of her remarks, she recited the sonnet Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and recited the night he won the Tony award for “Hamilton”, the day after the Orlando nightclub shooting.

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love;
Cannot be killed or swept aside.

The full commencement address can be found here for anyone who is interested:
Her words gave me hope that someday, whether it is weeks, months or years from now, people like these newly minted Cornell graduates will help us return to the ideal described above.

Thank you, President Pollack!

-- Frosty

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