An unusual commencement speech (Part 2)
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Today is the continuation of the commencement speech delivered by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at his son’s ninth-grade graduation at Cardigan Mountain School offering advice that ran counter to many common commencement speeches.

You can read the entire speech by visiting the “Time” website (

Here is the continuing part:

“The last bit of advice I’ll give you is very simple, but I think it could make a big difference in your life. Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email. A note on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly 10 minutes. Talk to an adult, let them tell you what a stamp is. You can put the stamp on the envelope. Again, 10 minutes, once a week. I will help you, right now. I will dictate to you the first note you should write. It will say, ‘Dear (fill in the name of a teacher at Cardigan Mountain School).’ Say: ‘I have started at this new school. We are reading (blank) in English. Football or soccer practice is hard, but I’m enjoying it. Thank you for teaching me.’ Put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and send it. It will mean a great deal to people who — for reasons most of us cannot contemplate — have dedicated themselves to teaching middle school boys. As I said, that will take you exactly 10 minutes a week. By the end of the school year, you will have sent notes to 40 people. Forty people will feel a little more special because you did, and they will think you are very special because of what you did. No one else is going to carry that dividend during your time at school.

Enough advice. I would like to end by reading some important lyrics. I cited the Greek philosopher Socrates earlier. These lyrics are from the great American philosopher, Bob Dylan. They’re almost 50 years old. He wrote them for his son, Jesse, who he was missing while he was on tour. It lists the hopes that a parent might have for a son and for a daughter. They’re also good goals for a son and a daughter. The wishes are beautiful, they’re timeless. They’re universal. They’re good and true, except for one: It is the wish that gives the song its title and its refrain. That wish is a parent’s lament. It’s not a good wish. So these are the lyrics from Forever Young by Bob Dylan:


May God bless you and keep you always

May your wishes all come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

And may you stay forever young


May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

And may you stay forever young


May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful

May your song always be sung

And may you stay forever young


Thank you.”


So much wisdom we can learn from a commencement speech. I wish more commencement speakers would express such wisdom and refrain from mimicking TV talk show hosts and celebrities’ clichés:

“Believe in yourself.” Perhaps it is better to doubt ourselves and cultivate the need to learn and improve.

“You can do anything you want if you put your heart into it…” Perhaps it would be better to discover our strengths and work it into a skill and deepen the expertise and this process does not only involve the heart but a lot of mind, toil and hustle.

“You can be anyone you want to be…” Perhaps it is better to understand that you are unique and God has a purpose for you but you need to discover what it is. There is no need to compare yourself with others and be somebody you are not meant to be.

Minimum wage? And rather than promising the students about starting salary for inexperienced graduates that start with P30,0000 and above, why not encourage them to even offer their services for free as they need to build up experience and knowledge in their initial phase of their life career. They paid tuition to schools in order to learn and now that they are learning they are paid minimum so what is wrong with that?

But then again when I say things like these some people will be offended and some may even bash me on social media. I really don’t know. I am not a talk show host, I am not celebrity and neither am I a chief justice of anything. I just happen to have all three grown up kids who are hardworking, Christ-centered and are doing very well in their chosen business and profession. And Lord willing, I am now looking forward to having grandchildren soon. Trust me, I will read them this commencement speech again and again.

(Attend the two exciting and inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong in his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop this April 2-3 at the Makati Diamond Residences across Greenbelt 1. For registration or inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at

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