You’ll find nothing here about the value of friends and family, the need to follow your dreams, or the importance of maintaining hope in the face of repeated failure (although as a Detroit Lions fan I am particularly well suited to expand on the finer points associated with this last-named virtue). You’ve heard all that before. Here, rather, are three pieces of advice that have worked for me.
First, remember that you are not permanently “fixed” where you find yourself today. Given the chance, your views will develop, your tastes will alter and expand, and your personality will grow. How many types of music, for example, that initially and repeatedly seemed completely unappealing to me eventually became favorites, but only because every so often I would give them another shot. Don’t simply try new things. Keep giving the old another chance.
Second, familiarize yourself with a variety of perspectives. Avoid limiting your television watching, radio listening, and conversations to only those who echo your own views. If you think that your opinions regarding, say, religion or politics are obvious, but there seem to be intelligent and well-informed folks who don’t share them, that’s probably a good indication that things are more complex than they appear. And always, always learn about the views that you’re inclined to disagree with from the people who actually believe them, not second-hand from those who have an interest in representing these ideas in an unfavorable light.
Third, and most simply, read. As a teacher for 35 years, I have the unsettling feeling that reading has become more and more undervalued, or at least that too many have become satisfied with doing less of it and doing what they do less skillfully. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life and a very effective way of following my first two pieces of advice, for it offers a perhaps unparalleled path toward the development of character and broader perspectives. Don’t be one of those who excuse their ignorance by saying, “I never took a course in that.” If something is important, it’s worth learning about, whether you had the chance to study it in school or not. To stop growing is to stop living, and there is no better way to grow than to read. And did I mention that it’s fun?
Congratulations on your accomplishments, graduates, and my very best wishes for your future success.
Nick Perovich is a professor of philosophy at Hope College in Holland, Mich., and a member of the Lodi High Class of 1969.