Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a small public event in Tuscon, Arizona earlier this week (and who remains in critical condition) is a graduate of my college, and spoke at my commencement ceremony. I remember her address; it was so good that I thanked her for it when I shook her hand while receiving my diploma. I’ve attached a link to it here, in case anyone else would like to read it.
She told us that “you cannot authentically live anyone’s life but your own” and followed by saying that it’s alright to be confounded by what exactly it is you want your own life to consist of, especially in your early twenties. That’s a statement I find myself appreciating more and more. She also said this:
There will be many, many times in the course of your professional and personal lives where you will be encouraged — in shockingly plain ways — to take the easy way, to go along with the group in contradiction to your own principles…
…But the safety of the world, in some sense, depends on your saying “no” to inhumane ideas.
Standing up for one’s own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know.
A supreme value of education is the understanding that the group consensus is not always right, in fact, that it can be totally wrong and must be subject to thoughtful challenge and questioning.
It is my hope for this graduating class that you will be among those self-assured enough to make personal sacrifices for what is right.
So, be passionate. Be courageous. Be strong.
I was really shocked and deeply saddened reading about her shooting in the news, especially as it came in tandem with some other sad news from Claremont. I’m glad I went back and re-read her speech. It was as good as I remembered it being. I’m sending my thoughts to Ms. Giffords, the other victims and their families, the city of Tuscon, and to our country as a whole.