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I Wish You Bad Luck

It was not without precedent that the 2017 Cardigan Mountain School ninth grade graduation had no announced commencement speaker. It was, after all, just a Middle School graduation. As the rainy day unfolded a parent, a father whose adopted son was one of the graduates, offered his own carefully prepared advice. The speaker was the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Roberts. Here is some of what he said.
“Commencement speakers typically wish good luck and extend good wishes. I will not do that. Let me 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 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 do not 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 failure is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will 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’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others. And I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.


“Now, whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. But whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.


“Another piece of advice: At your new school when you pass by people you don’t recognize, 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. That is not a bad thing to start with.


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


“The last bit of advice I give you is very simple, but it could make a big difference in your life. Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email. A note, on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly ten minutes. Ask an adult, they’ll explain what a stamp is. You can put the postage stamp on the envelope. Again, the whole process will take ten minutes, once a week.


"I will help you. Right now. I’ll dictate the first note you should write. It will say, ‘Dear [fill in the name of a teacher at Cardigan Mountain School].’ Write: ‘I have started at my new school. We are reading [fill in the book title] in English. Football or soccer practice is hard, but I’m enjoying it. Thank you for teaching me.’ Sign your note. Put it in the envelope. Mail it. It will mean a great deal to people who—for reasons most of us cannot comprehend—have dedicated themselves to teaching middle school boys.


“As I said, this will take exactly ten minutes a week. By the end of the school year, you will have sent notes to 40 people. Forty people will feel a little more special about themselves because of you. And they will think you are a very special person because of what you did for them.”


Imagine how different your world, our world would be if everyone received just one hand-written thank you note each week. ~

Happy New Year,
Dan Nygaard