Hutton to grads: Keep an open mind By: David Lias
Plain Talk Chris Hutton, professor at The University of South Dakota School of Law, defined the word commencement in her opening remarks to the Vermillion High School Class of 2008 shortly before they received their diplomas Sunday in Slagle Auditorium. â�?�?Commencement means beginning, and you are about to begin some great adventures, graduates,â�? she said. Hutton brought along three books with her to the podium to help the grads concentrate on their future. She held up her copy of the classic novel, Great Expectations. â�?�?Today, you donâ�?�?t have to think about the book; just think of the title of the book,â�? she said. â�?�?I hope that it characterizes how you feel about yourself today. I hope you have a spirit of adventure, and an open mind.â�? Hutton encouraged the Vermillion seniors to expect great things of themselves, in whatever they choose to do next with their lives. â�?�?I hope you keep your spirit of generosity,â�? she said. â�?�?You have been given much, and you have so much more to give to all of us.â�? Hutton held up a second book â�?�? Where the Wild Things Are. â�?�?Life is so crazy sometimes,â�? she said. â�?�?It makes you want to scream and pull your hair out and pull a blanket over your head and crawl under the bed. Believe me graduates, every person in this room has had days like that.â�? Hutton said sometimes that craziness is multiplied when one thinks of the things that are happening in the world today. â�?�?Many people have spoken to you about leadership while youâ�?�?ve been in high school,â�? she said. â�?�?They have told you that leaders have to make hard choices, they have to make unpopular choices, they have to do things that are difficult. â�?�?But sometimes we see our leaders fail miserably,â�? Hutton said. â�?�?Sometimes they do it publicly, and we throw up our hands, and we wonder whatâ�?�?s going on. And sometimes we use their failures as an excuse for us not to do the worthwhile things theyâ�?�?ve advocated.â�? She said it can be tempting to be cynical and sarcastic about leaders when they fail. â�?�?But cynicism means that you have a closed mind,â�? Hutton said. â�?�?Youâ�?�?ve already decided that things are not worth considering because you know they wonâ�?�?t work.â�? Skepticism, she said, is the sign of persons with open minds who ask many questions to try to come up with the right answer. â�?�?I urge you to resist the temptation to become cynical, and I urge you to keep a healthy skepticism. Remember that people are not perfect, and you have to continue to struggle to do what is right and what is worthwhile without giving yourself excuses not to do so,â�? Hutton said. She held up a third book â�?�? Harry Potter. â�?�?Harry Potterâ�?�?s life is filled with what appears to me to be insurmountable challenges,â�? Hutton said. â�?�?Challenges are difficulties that you face, and you donâ�?�?t know haw itâ�?�?s going to turn out. Thatâ�?�?s what makes it hard â�?�? you donâ�?�?t know what the answer is. You are going to have lots of challenges in your lives.â�? Harry Potter overcame many of his challenges with the help of magic, she said. â�?�?Well, you donâ�?�?t have any of that stuff,â�? she said. â�?�?But what do you have that Harry had? â�?�?Well, Harry stuck with it. He didnâ�?�?t give up, even when things looked really, really difficult and impossible. He kept at it.â�? Harry also possessed the imagination to figure out creative ways to overcome the challenges he faced. He had courage and a sense of humor. â�?�?But to me, honestly,â�? Hutton said, â�?�?the best thing that Harry had going for him is he had phenomenal friends. He had people who were loyal to him; people who had his best interests at heart. â�?�?I hope, that as you leave Vermillion High School, you find people who are the kind of friends to you that Harry had,â�? she said. â�?�?But I also hope that you are that kind of friend to the people you will meet.â�?