Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Opinion: Capturing advice from graduation day

School commencement season’s drawing to a close, and just in time, as hotter-than-usual weather clings to metro Atlanta.

The time-honored event of K-12 and college graduation exercises remains a common bond for most of us, even in an age of discord. Rows of robes and caps symbolize unity around hard-won attainment of an academic goal.

Part of commencement’s ritual are the speeches, which can seem interminably long on a hot day. The thoughts voiced usually revolve around timeless ideas tailored to specific audiences. Sometimes their full meaning is understood more by family members and guests than exuberant graduates, we suspect. Time will gradually impart the wisdom as young lives unfold.

One graduation speech that made news and memories alike was Morehouse College commencement speaker Robert Smith, who went off-script to announce that he would pay the student loan debt of 2019’s class. That speech goes in the one-in-a-million category.

Much more common is sage advice such as that from Ambassador Andrew Young at Emory University’s commencement. He told graduates that “we are all part of a spiritual universe which we don’t fully understand, which we’re just beginning to reach into. The mysteries of our lives far outweighs the burdens and the challenges and the successes that we have achieved.” When obstacles come, Young advised, “relax and let go, then something divine is liable to happen in your lives.”

Today, we feature excerpts from commencement speeches by three local college and university presidents.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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