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Best graduation speech I’ve ever heard.

Given by John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme
Court to his son’s 9th grade graduation.


Now the commencement speakers will typically also 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 well 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 will 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 on your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.
Now commencement speakers are also expected to give some advice.
They give grand advice, and they give us some useful tips. The most
common grand advice they give is for you to be yourself. It is an odd
piece of advice to give people dressed identically, but you should – you
should be yourself. But you should understand what that means. Unless
you are perfect, it does not mean don’t make any changes. In a certain
sense, you should not be yourself. You should try to be something
better. People say ‘be yourself’ because they want you to resist the
impulse to conform to what others want you to be. But you can’t be
yourself if you don’t learn who you are, and you can’t learn who you
are unless you think about it.


The Greek philosopher Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth
living.” And while ‘just go for it’ might be a good motto for some things,
it’s not a good motto when it’s trying to figure out how to live your life
that is before you. And one important clue to living a good life is to not
to try to live the good life. The best way to lose the values that are
central to who you are is frankly not to think about them at all.


So that’s the deep advice. Now some tips as you get ready to go to your
new school. Over the last couple of years, I have gotten to know many
of you young men pretty well, and I know you are good guys. But you
were also privileged young men.

And if you weren’t privileged when you came here, you are
privileged now because you have been here. My advice is: Don’t act like it.


When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to
the person who is raking leaves, shoveling the snow or emptying the
trash. Learn their name and call them by their name during your time at
the school. Another piece of advice: when you walk when you pass by
people you don’t recognize on the walks, smile, look them in the eye
and say hello. The worst thing that will happen is that you will become
known as the young man who smiles and says hello, and that is not a
bad thing to start with.


You’ve been at school with just boys. Most of you will be going to a
school with girls. I have no advice for you.