NPR's Scott Simon Addresses Graduates;
Three Receive Honorary Doctorates
SHREVEPORT, LA -- Centenary College's commencement exercises included the awarding of diplomas to 174 graduates and honorary degrees to three distinguished citizens prior to the commencement address by National Public Radio's Scott Simon.
The baccalaureate and commencement exercises were held at 2:30 p.m. May 9 before a near-capacity crowd in the Gold Dome.
Included in the festivities was the awarding of honorary doctorates to Dr. Charles L. Black, a physician and medical missionary from Shreveport, who received the Honorary Doctor of Science degree; Mr. Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition/Saturday on National Public Radio, who received the Honorary Doctor of Laws; and Bishop Dan E. Solomon, Louisiana Conference, United Methodist Church, who received the Honorary Doctor of Divinity.
Simon began his remarks by passing on a few of the convictions he has accumulated. "They cannot replace, I will add, the values of experience that you will begin to accumulate, but at least for the next few weeks or months as you begin to accumulate that experience, they might be something to bear in mind," he said.
Here are excerpts from Simon's advice to graduates:
Find Work You Can Believe In
"I hope graduates, you can find work you believe in. One of the most dangerous bits of pseudo wisdom I hear appearing these days is the one that goes, 'I keep my work separate from my home life. I go to work, I come home, and leave all that behind.' . . . One of the great depleting sources of human corruption at work in the world today is the millions of people doing work in which they cannot believe...So I hope that you are able to find harmony in your lives."
Balance with Friendship, Family, Spiritual Life
"On the other hand that has to be balanced with a sense of proportion -- friendship, reflections, solid family, a spiritual life which is the better part, I believe, of why we have been put on this planet. And often you need to work in keeping up relations, making time for family and friends as assiduously, if not more assiduously, than your professional life if you are to live and to breathe."
Have Some Fun
".... You are young, go out and have some fun, skinny dip in the Red River ... stay up all night talking and laughing, pull a few pranks, eat a worm or two on dare or perhaps a nutria, listen to music that is too loud, you are young, damn it. We expect that. Try as you might you cannot save the world all at once and all alone at your age."
But You Can Change the World
"On the other hand you are never too young to change the world. Give something to that at a time in your life when you are most energetic and best in a position to learn from your efforts and even your mistakes."
Please Don't Smoke
"I also want to implore you specifically -- although your personal life is none of my business -- please don't smoke. It is a nasty, brutish and inconsiderate habit and it kills people. Now if that is not enough to persuade you -- and amazingly for decades it has not been -- consider this: If you believe the decision to smoke is simply isolated and personal, remember that each package of cigarettes purchased helps to greater prosperity companies that use even more vicious and unsupervised and unscrupulous methods to sell their products to less-suspecting persons overseas and the profits they earn are helping them to do that."
"Another goal I would like to recommend for your consideration, please try to minimize minimization ... The world has been much too injured in our century by too many smart people who misuse their intelligence to short circuit their character. To many well-informed people misusing knowledge is a pretext not to care."
Try Not to Swear
"I have a few other bromides that I would like to pass on. Try not to swear. This will be difficult to sell you on, but hear me out on this. Try not to swear at least without cause or a purpose...Try to remember that those words are epithet, they were invented to explode, they were invented to draw the highest degree of attention, and often they were invented to hurt. The constant casual repetition of obscenity diminishes the power that it should have in our lives and corrupts our own quality of expression. So swear if you mean to, but not as a mere substitute for not having a thesaurus at hand ... The point is that men and women of conviction are able to find a way of getting the point across without resorting to obscenity."
Be a Good Citizen
"I want to implore this too. Try to be a good citizen, I hope that this is not as elemental as it sounds because I think the course of action to becoming a good citizen seems to be getting more obscure. These days we are witnessing a time in which public opinion pools and surveys, focus groups and marketing studies are implied substitutes for citizenship.
"Never before have so many voices been telling us what we think, what we want, what we crave, desire and clamor for. But no focus group is large enough to contain subtlety; few opinion pools can suggest complexity. They are poor and passive replacements for real citizenship. Being a good citizen requires work, it means registering to vote ... keeping current on issues and forming opinions."
Work for Peace
"A final suggestion that I want to offer you is this one, in some small way in your life, large or small, I hope that you are able to work for peace... Too much of the world's precious treasure money, care and most of all, of course, human lives is spent in armor...(Work to) make violence less the currency by which the work of the world is done, to make our community safe and decent, make relations between nations abiding and peaceful...not only overseas but in our own neighborhoods. We have a surpassing interest in that.
"I think there are those sitting among you this afternoon, young men and women, who grew up in the American South that is no longer segregated; a couple of Russian students whom I met here who are able to reach maturity in a country that is no longer a dictatorship; among your parents, friends and family that are sitting here today, they can be useful living testimonial to the fact that brave men and women can bend the river of social purpose and of history to their own good works."
In Closing, Make a Child Laugh
"So to the Centenary class of 1998, in closing, let me simply say 'Good Luck' and 'God Bless.' Now that you have been gracious enough to hear me through, I hope you go out and make some of your own mistakes and learn from them. Your mistakes, committed on your own, will certainly be more pertinent than my mere words. You may discover that wisdom is often rewarded in the winds of a mistake, a loss or even a great grief. We cannot grow wise without loss or regret. So, I thank you for your attention. Write when you get work. Remember Mother's Day is tomorrow. Try to make at least one child laugh each week. Go well and thank you."
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