I'm here to deliver this year's commencement address at Lyon College, one of the fine small liberal arts schools left in the country. A sure clue: It's had the grace not to style itself a University.
How many graduation ceremonies, I wonder, did I attend during my own checkered academic career? I not only lose count, I realize I can't remember the name of any of the commencement speakers, or a single word they had to say. Which ought to tell a commencement speaker something.
What it tells me is that my function here this overcast morning is to take up the last 20 minutes that stand between the Class of '07 and
I sure don't want to get in the way of the stampede. So I solemnly resolve to set the all-time record for the shortest commencement address ever delivered.
So much for my good resolutions. Because then I watch as a professor of biology-Dr. David J. Thomas- is awarded the Williamson Prize for Faculty Excellence. And it sets me to telling the graduates about some of the great teachers I have had along the way, especially a professor of biology at Centenary College named Mary Warters. And then there wasŠ.
I can't help reminiscing about the light all those teachers shed, and especially their disinterested passion for their subject. How rare such types are in an age when professors moonlight as ideologues, although it has become customary to refer to them as Social Critics or Public Intellectuals.
The very meaning of the word disinterested,meaning impartial, without a personal interest or prejudice to further, is now almost lost, having been converted into another synonym for just bored. Which ought to tell us something about our Entertainment 24/7 society and its generalized attention deficit disorder.
But this is no morning to complain. It's the kind of still, overcast day that brings out the dark blues and greens and soft yellow sunlight here in the Ozarks; you could be inside an Edward Hopper painting.
It's a particular pleasure to share the platform with Little Rock's Keith Jackson, who now runs one of Pulaski County's great assets-an after-school program for kids in danger of falling between the cracks. That's Keith Jackson-two-time All-American tight end at Oklahoma, six-time NFL Pro Bowl choice of the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, color commentator for the Razorback Sports NetworkŠ.
And the culmination of all this is that he's devoted himself to helping kids in his hometown. How lucky we are to have him Little Rock, where he was meant to be.