When I earned a doctorate in 1993 from the University of Alabama, the speaker at graduation was Howell Raines, an Alabama native, who was editorial page editor at the New York Times. He delivered a memorable address, and, in keeping with the custom of including advice for the graduates, Raines quoted Walt Whitman. In Whitman's preface to Leaves of Grass, his collection of twelve poems published in 1855 and added to over his lifetime, he wrote (all the words are quoted exactly from Whitman; I added only the numbers):
"This is what you shall do:
- Love the earth and sun and the animals,
- despise riches,
- give alms to every one that asks,
- stand up for the stupid and crazy,
- devote your income and labor to others,
- hate tyrants,
- argue not concerning God,
- have patience and indulgence toward the people,
- take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
- go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
- read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
- re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
- dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
Good advice 150 years later, I think!
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