Lee Pitts: Inspired
June 17, 2011
I’ve always wanted to deliver a commencement address, no, not to college or even high school graduates because there is nothing I could tell them that they don’t already think they know. I’d like to address someone more on my intellectual level, like a class of graduating sixth graders. Here’s what I’d say to them:
“I promise to make this short if you’ll just put down your cell phones and stop tweeting, texting and Facebooking long enough to listen. I really have only one thing to tell you that I wish someone would have told me when I was your age and it is simply this: Find something to be inspired by. Every day.
“The world doesn’t need any more greed, egotistical celebrities or even ambition. No, what the world is sadly lacking today is inspiration. It is the number one cause of greatness and is the secret to a rewarding and happy life.
“My advice to you: Find those things in life that make you tingle all over. Perhaps I inspire too easily and I can’t really describe the feeling, but you know what I’m talking about. It’s whatever turns you on or gets you going in the morning. And I’m not talking about caffeine, drugs, nicotine or alcohol. That’s adrenalin, not inspiration. Whatever you do while under their influence you can do ten times better without them.
“There is inspiration all around us and you may find your daily dose in a song, photo, painting, beautiful flower, newborn foal, a great bronc ride or a graduation speech. Whatever it is that makes you want to tackle the world, do great things and live a life of goodness.
“I’m not about to suggest what you should be inspired by because, thankfully, it’s different for everyone. For example, I was inspired to be a writer by a sportswriter named Jim Murray and a columnist named Erma Bombeck. But you probably have never heard of either one of them. That’s okay. There’s plenty more where they came from. But I would suggest that there is plenty to be inspired by in the written word. So read a lot.
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“Your parents will hate me for saying this, but don’t listen to people who tell you what you should do, or be, 20 years from now. A lawyer uncle might encourage you to join the Bar or a techno-savvy cousin will say that computers are the way to make a lot of money. Pay no attention to them if such jobs don’t inspire you. Follow your passions in life. Don’t become a dentist or a construction worker just because three generations of your family did. Don’t be trapped into a life you don’t want to live.
“Here’s something else your parents won’t tell you. All that stuff about everyone being equal is a bunch of bologna. Some of you were born with a head-start in life while others of you have had a tougher road. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. You’re the lucky ones because physical challenges and poverty can provide great inspiration. The best love songs were written by the brokenhearted and many great works were inspired by hunger. That one-armed surfer girl who had her arm ripped off by a shark would never have inspired people like me if she still had that arm. My favorite picture in my house was done by a quadriplegic friend who drew it by holding a pencil in his mouth. What good excuse could I possibly have?
“I’ll be honest: We aren’t leaving you this world in the best shape. The American culture seems to be on the downward side of greatness. We’ve heavily mortgaged your future and it’s going to require inspired leadership on your part to keep the American Dream alive. Thankfully, history has provided a good road map. Study the lives of Washington and Lincoln, the words of Thomas Jefferson and the goodness of Sister Theresa. Read the Gettysburg Address, watch Ronald Reagan ‘tear down that wall’ and listen to Martin Luther King deliver his ‘I have a dream speech.’
“Want to have a successful and happy life? Find something to be inspired by every day and live your life so that you’ll inspire others long after you are gone.”