When’s The Last Time You Heard A Graduation Speech Worth Listening To?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2021/06/15/whens-the-last-time-you-heard-a-graduation-speech-worth-listening-to/

The salutatorian walked to the podium, she being the first of a handful of speakers at the college graduation. I have heard these student speeches before, often filled with prideful recognition – “look what we accomplished” – or ideology stemmed from relevant trends, and not from a well-formed conscience.

But, this time, I expected better. And salutatorian Theresa Piroch delivered, articulating wisdom in an elegant, humble manner. Speakers often use quotes from impressive people, and Piroch established her theme quickly, citing an analogy used by St. Therese of Lisieux:  “The world is hauling itself up the staircase, but we have been shown the elevator to God.” Piroch then explained:


In other words, we have become children in the intellectual life; not that we haven’t had to work hard for the knowledge we’ve gained. But there is a difference between desperate, frenzied searching for knowledge, and childlike search that is hopeful and optimistic.

Our faculty have taught us by their example to pursue truth with the spirit of a child, who is filled with wonder in the face of great truth that he doesn’t yet fully grasp.

Spurred on by this wonder, the child pursues truth with humble recognition that, in the grand scheme of things, he knows very little. And for the childlike mind, wonder never disappears, but rather drives the search for truth, until the mind finally rests in an eternal act of wonder and joy, and gratitude at the sight of God himself.


Piroch’s speech mirrored the education she received at Christendom College, a gem of a Catholic university in Front Royal, Virginia. Commencement – which followed a baccalaureate Mass the day before, celebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge – contained remarks from several others, including the commencement speaker, well-known former football coach (and devout Catholic) Lou Holtz, who spoke more on faith and family than first downs:

“Do the right thing. Have any doubt? Get out the Bible. If you can’t find a Bible, try to follow the Ten Commandments. … Do what you know in your heart is right and proper. God will tell you what it is. … Just do the right thing. Do the best you can. Show people your care.”

Among the graduates was my daughter who had the courage three years ago to take an all-night bus trip from her central Massachusetts college to north central Virginia, to look into transferring to Christendom.

Thank you, God.

When I wrote about my daughter transferring from the College of the Holy Cross three years ago, I emphasized the good people I knew on the Holy Cross campus. But the college was going off the rails, espousing moral relativism, instead of moral truths.

If I attended the Holy Cross commencement this year, I would be listening to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a committed defender of abortion rights (“an issue that is personally a priority for me” she has said).

I imagine we are supposed to be impressed that Holy Cross had such an important person speaking, instead of wondering why a Catholic school invites someone so opposed to an essential belief that all life is dignified and must be protected.

I prefer humility and truth.

I defer to the wise salutatorian for the final words about a priceless education:


Most of the world is desperately trying to find truth and goodness, even doubting whether truth and goodness exist. But during our education at Christendom, truth and goodness have been made readily available.

By teaching us to wonder, our education has quite literally marked the beginning of our heaven on earth. After all, we graduates have developed an intellectual framework by which we can discern the traces of God in this world.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.