Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lives of Quiet Inspiration

We may think about what would happen in our lives if a sudden disaster strikes.  Much of the dread associated with apocalyptic scenarios assumes the worst, not only in what happens, but in how people respond.  But real situations don't always turn out that way.  In fact, they usually don't.  In this speech to the Joplin High School Class of 2012, a year after the catastrophic tornado there, President Obama describes the values that help get a community through, both in general terms but most tellingly in the specific case of Joplin.  He returns often to the theme of how these values are imprinted on these students because of what they've experienced there in the past year. 

"As you begin the next stage in your journey, wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing, it’s safe to say you will encounter greed and selfishness, and ignorance and cruelty, sometimes just bad luck. You’ll meet people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down. You’ll meet people who believe that looking after others is only for suckers. But you’re from Joplin. So you will remember, you will know, just how many people there are who see life differently; those who are guided by kindness and generosity and quiet service."

" And so, my deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you’ll bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel, to everything you do. You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone, that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves."

"Yes, you will encounter obstacles along the way," President Obama concluded.  "I guarantee you will face setbacks and you will face disappointments. But you’re from Joplin and you’re from America. And no matter how tough times get, you’ll always be tougher. And no matter what life throws at you, you will be ready. You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but by how you respond -- with grace and strength and a commitment to others."

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