Kathryn Lopez

Want a little wisdom? Given we're a culture that tends to be self-help hungry, odds are that you and I aren't hostile to a little good advice. Who would be?

Well, May and June were months populated by commencement addresses. Some were memorable; some were political; some were self-indulgent. Some need to be reread now that the parties are over, internships are being settled into, vacations are being enjoyed, or the satisfactions of labor are giving way to harsh realities about paychecks, FICA --- and, well, don't ask Paul Ryan how bright that future looks about now.

During his speech at Ave Maria University's commencement exercises in Naples, Fla., the Rev. Robert McTeigue, a philosophy professor and director of discernment there, encouraged students to respect those who paid for their education, or who otherwise supported it and them.

He told graduates: "Before you go out into the world, that great landscape of the sacred and the profane, I want you to do one thing first. Take some time this summer to explain to your family, and especially to your parents, what has happened to you and within you over the last four years. They need you to do that for them because they still remember you primarily as the 18-year-old kid going off to college ... They know, at least vaguely, that you have been very busy and that so much has been happening in your world here, but they don't know the details, and they don't know what the past four years have meant to you ... Tell them about how the good in you has gotten better, and tell them about how the not-so-good in you has gotten better too."

Show them, in other words, that you're adult enough to appreciate a good thing -- that you're grateful not just for the education, but for the freedom you've been allowed.

He advised: "Sit down with your family, and tell them the story, semester by semester, of the education you received here, both in and out of the classroom. Tell them that your fondest memory of biology is the time that you played 'Pin the flagellum on the euglena,' and then tell them that your lasting memory of biology is the wonder you felt at seeing the staggering complexity of even the smallest component of life."

I confess I had no idea, before this speech, what an euglena is; but McTeigue is right to praise an appreciation of it because, in our coarse world, a reverence for life is an endangered sensibility. When we seem collectively outraged by the injustice done to Caylee Anthony, though, I have some hope.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.