Volume 5, Number 1; March 2013
Love of Place, Family and Community, and Learning!
Written by Bob Smith
Thank you, Rector Dr. José Rocha, our colleagues in High School Seviços Educationais, other esteemed guests, and faculty and staff members of Colégio Christus for making this opportunity possible. Thank you, parents, other relatives, and friends of the graduates. Your support has been critical to the graduates, and I hope your support will always be appreciated.
Dr. Smith addressed students who successfully completed the TTUISD program at Colegio Christus and were graduating in November 2012.
Students from the graduating class at Colegio Christus proudly display their diplomas.
Dr. Smith shares his thoughts on the love of place, family and community, and learning.
Dr. Smith's tie comprises many flags of the world, including those hanging at Colegio Christus.
To the graduates: Thank you for your dedication and persistence, your hard work, and—I hope—a focus on the future, all of which were important in your being here today. So, congratulations are in order. Indeed, hearty congratulations!
But, remember that commencement means “beginning”—not end. So, as you begin the rest of your life, be thinking about what’s next, and how you will live fulfilling lives. Thus, I offer three topics for you to consider: Place, Family and Community, and Learning. Let me share just a few thoughts about each.
There is an old story of a Fortalezan father with a preteen son. One day, the son—who is nine years old, we’ll call him Luciano—asks his father: “Dad, where did I come from?” The Fortalezan father gulps, thinks for about thirty seconds, and replies with a five-minute discourse on human reproduction. Luciano, who has listened conscientiously and patiently, pauses briefly but then remarks: “That’s all very interesting dad, but Rogerio told me he was from Sao Paulo!”
The story contains a powerful lesson. Namely, the question: “Where are you from?” It may be one of the most commonly asked questions in the world. And, the typical counterpoint answer that comes from sons and daughters of career diplomats and military officers often contains the ironic expression: “Oh, I am from ‘no place’ in particular; I am a diplomat or military child!” Thus, the downside of career diplomatic or military service—for progeny—is the tenuous relationship with place.
Place, or better “the love of place,” is important because it helps define not only where you come from but also who you are as a person. And, the concept extends to places that you have experienced culturally. All these places are important because they become touchstones in your life.
As I stand before you today, I can share a certain feeling of awe because of being in this place. This place—Fortaleza, which during World War II more than seventy years ago—is where my father was stationed while in the US Navy and while serving the United States, Brazil, and the free world. So, learn to love your places of origin, along with the treasured places where you have been. Learn about their peoples and their stories. They will hold special meaning for you in the years ahead.
Family and Community
The second love I share with you is the love of family and community. I include in this category, the love of city, region and nation, and the love of the world—its citizens, its creatures, and its environment. Also, remember that love should translate to service to your family and community members, friends, and the fellow creatures of our planet.
The last love I commend to you is a love of learning, or lifelong learning. For those students, faculty and staff members who heard my longer presentation this week, you know that when I speak of learning, I refer to travel and what you experience in new places. Also, learning and a love of learning require reading, writing, and communicating, along with an integration of all of these efforts. I also admonish students, friends, colleagues, or whoever will listen to always remember that learning in and of itself is not wisdom. Rather, real wisdom only emanates from learning that is blended with genuine caring and serving. These concepts contrast with the learning of what the great cognitive psychologist Robert Sternberg calls “crackpot despots” who have lived across the millennia. Many of the despots were “learned,” but they were not wise.
In summary, consider the love of place, love of family and community, and a love of learning—all with a focus on wisdom resulting from caring and service. Together, these loves will make all the difference in your careers and your lives.
Ties That Bind
People who know me know that I like to wear neckties and lapel pins that may contain special messages for the day or time. Today, I am wearing a necktie that contains an image of the flag of Brazil. My lapel pin—similarly—bears reference to the beautiful imagery of the globe of the Brazilian flag and the national motto: Ordem e Progresso, which we might simply translate into English as Order and Progress. But we know that the inspiration for that motto came from the 19th century French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857), who was the father of sociology and positivism—the man who coined the term “altruism.” Comte was admired by military leaders who guided the formation of the Republic of Brazil in 1889, and it was Comte who wrote: “L'amour pour principe et l'ordre pour base; le progrès pour but.” Or, “Love as a principle and order as the basis; progress as the goal.”
So allow me to share a final wish for you—our graduates today: May you love through principle; and, may your progress to the goals of intellectual, emotional, and social fulfillment be accomplished in all of your lifetimes.
Now, allow me one final thought in the words of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize:
Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies.
And be it gash (sic) or gold it will not come
Again in this identical disguise.
Remember, dear students: This will never happen again. Relish and enjoy this day! Remember this day forever! A day of the culmination of your dreams, your hard work, and all the love you have enjoyed from your family, friends, and community—including your teachers.
Boa viagem e boa sorte!
About the Author
Bob Smith serves as provost and senior vice president, and professor of chemistry at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.
This paper is based on Bob Smith's November 23, 2012, commencement address to Colégio Christus graduates in Fortaleza, Brazil.