Every summer I look forward to reading many of the wonderful commencement addresses given around the country. I always find a couple of gems which impart great insights and wisdom we can all learn from. This year I found one delivered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at his son's ninth-grade graduation from Cardigan Mountain School — a New Hampshire boarding school for boys in grades six through nine. Chief Roberts’ advice ran counter to many typical commencement speeches.
Here’s a part of it:
“Now the commencement speakers will typically wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. 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. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”
The Chief Justice’s words are such an important life lesson, one that takes a lifetime to learn. Who knows how many of those ninth-grade boys listened and took away a bit of wisdom that would help when a good friend lets them down or they suffer the bruises of hurt and injustice. How will they weather their parents getting divorced or the pain that comes when you feel totally alone? I am counting on at least a few of those young men remembering those words in a critical moment….and realizing they have the inner resources to not just survive the challenges life brings, but to thrive.