Cardigan’s Commencement Address by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Cardigan’s Commencement Address by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.


It is now my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce this year’s commencement speaker Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Chief Justice Roberts numerous accomplishments include serving as a law clerk for then associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States, whom he would succeed as Chief Justice 25 years later. Among many other notable and distinguished positions, the Chief justice also served as Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan and was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit in in 2003. President George W. Bush nominated him as Chief Justice of the United States, and he took his seat in September 2005 But I guess one resume is pretty much like any other, right? Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts’ most impressive accomplishment was in marrying Jane, possessor of a distinguished legal career in her own right, and a person who has in the last two years become one of the great advocates for Cardigan Mountain School in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Jane, for all that you have done and do for Cardigan. The Chief Justice and Mrs. Roberts are also two proud parents of their daughter Josie and our own Cardigan cougar Jack who very well may likely be the most uncomfortable person among us right now. I have to admit that as I was preparing for this day, I have paused several times at the thought of this moment. It is not often that one has the opportunity and honor to introduce the Chief Justice of the United States. heck, there have only been 17 of them in our nation’s history. Earlier this spring, Cynthia and I visited the Chief Justice at his office at the Supreme Court in Washington as a historian and a bit of a Supreme Court junkie, you might imagine my excitement when I found myself entering the Chief Justice’s private chambers. He invited us to sit on a worn leather Davenport, and as soon as we did, pointed out that we were sitting on the couch on which John Quincy Adams died. I can assure you that my reaction was slightly less reposed and was JQA’s when he last dented the cushions. I was anxious to tell the Chief Justice how much I enjoyed reading his tightly constructed, withering, but respectful dissent in the Arizona case, but instead I sat start straight in my seat well the Chief Justice introduced the cases to be heard that day and showed us the immensely thick briefs that the Justices study to prepare for each case. At one point during our time together, I asked Chief Justice Roberts how he handles the awesome responsibility which accompanies his office. His response has stuck with me. “I feel like I’m holding the reins of a horse,” he said. “I dare not pull on them too hard because I might discover that they aren’t attached to anything.” I found this to be such an insightful appreciation for the delicate but precise juridical dance that the Chief Justice and his colleagues negotiate as with the United States Constitution as their guide, historical precedents as reference points, and in astute sensibility of our evolving Confederation, they endeavor to balance the immediate and far-reaching implications of their decisions. As one who thinks that the United States Constitution in all of its purposeful ambiguity is perhaps the most brilliant expression of democratic republicanism ever devised, I have some really exciting news to share for our graduates. When you receive your diploma in a few moments, it may feel a little thicker than it usually might. That is because, sorry, that is because tucked into your diploma, each of you will find a pocket-sized edition of the United States Constitution personally signed by Chief Justice Roberts. I urge you to read it and I know that this will be a keepsake that you will cherish for the rest of your lives. Fellas, this stuff doesn’t happen. Enjoy it. While Chief Justice Roberts is an extraordinary American, John G. Roberts is an ordinary man. He is known to many in this community not so much because of his job, but because he is part of our Cardigan family. Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, at Cardigan you will always be Jack’s Dad first. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. Thank you very much. Thank you very much Rain, somebody said, is like confetti from heaven. So even the heavens are celebrating this morning, joining the rest of us at this wonderful Commencement ceremony. Before we go any further, graduates, you have an important task to perform because behind you are your parents and guardians. Two or three or four years ago they drove into Cardigan, dropped you off, helped you get settled, and then turned around and drove back out the gates. It was an extraordinary sacrifice for them. They drove down the trail of tears back to an emptier and lonelier house. They did that because the decision about your education, they knew, was about you. It was not about them. That sacrifice and others they made have brought you to this point. But this morning is not just about you, it is also about them. So I hope you will stand up and turn around and give them a great round of applause. Please. Now when somebody asked me how the remarks at Cardigan went, I will be able to say they were interrupted by applause. Congratulations Class of 2017. You’ve reached an important milestone. An important stage of your life is behind you. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you it is the easiest stage of your life, but it is in the books. Now while you’ve been at Cardigan, you have all been a part of an important international community as well, and I think that needs to be particularly recognized. Tambien felicito a los graduados Cardigan de Mexico y todos los otros estudiante internacionales so presencia como parte de La Comunidad Cardigan, [Lai] hom lugar mas Doubront a Cardigan [Bureau’s] Sang Ro Ro Bungay gin Sin, Oran, Chicawa Thiago a Mountain Beau, Namida Now around the country today at colleges, high schools, middle schools, Commencement speakers are standing before impatient graduates, and they are almost always saying the same things. They will say that today is a commencement exercise. It is a beginning, not an end. You should look forward and I think that is true enough. However, I think if you’re going to look forward to figure out when you’re going, it’s good to know where you’ve been and to look back as well. And I think if you look back to your first afternoon here at Cardigan, perhaps you’ll recall that you were lonely, perhaps you will recall that you were a little scared, a little anxious. And now look at you. You are surrounded by friends that you call brothers, and you are confident in facing the next step in your education. It is worth trying to think why that is so, and when you do, I think you may appreciate that it was because of the support of your classmates in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in the dorms. And as far as the confidence goes, I think you will appreciate that it is not because you succeeded at everything you did, but because with the help of your friends you are not afraid to fail. And if you did fail, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again, it might be time to think about doing something else. It was not just success, but not being afraid to fail, that brought you to this point. Now the Commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal, because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck again from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others. And I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not they’re going to happen, and whether you you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes. Well Commencement speakers are also expected to give some advice. They give grand advice and they give some useful tips. The most common grand advice they give is for you to be yourself. It is an odd piece of advice to give people dressed identically, but you should be yourself, but you should understand what that means. Unless you are perfect, it does not mean don’t make any changes. In a certain sense you should not be yourself, you should try to become something better. People say be yourself because they want you to resist the impulse to conform to what others want you to be But you can’t be yourself if you don’t learn who you are, and you can’t learn who you are unless you think about it. The Greek Philosopher Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. And while “Just Do It” may be a good model for some things, it’s not a good model when it’s time to figure out how to live your life that is before you. And one important clue to living a good life, is to not to try to live THE good life. The best way to lose the values that are central to who you are is frankly not to think about them at all. So that’s the deep advice, now some tips as you get ready to go to your new school. Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten to know many of you young men pretty well, and I know you are good guys. But you are also privileged young men, and if you weren’t privileged when you came here, you’re privileged now because you have been here. My advice is don’t act like it. When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to the person who is raking the leaves, shoveling the snow, or emptying the trash. Learn their name and call them by their name during your time at the school. Another piece of advice when you pass by people you don’t recognize on the walks, smile, look them in the eye, and say hello. The worst thing that will happen is that you will become known as the young man who smiles and says hello. And that is not a bad thing to start with. You’ve been at a school with just boys. Most of you will be going to a school with girls. I have no advice for you. 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, and you can put the stamp on the envelope. Again, ten 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 the 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 ten 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. Now what 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. There are almost 50 years old. He wrote them for his son Jesse who he was missing while he was on tour. They list the hopes that a parent might have for a son and for a daughter. There are 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 light 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.

89 Replies to “Cardigan’s Commencement Address by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.”

  1. A very stirring and heartfelt speech. The CJ's suggestion for writing a note once a week, saying hello to janitors and other support staff and introducing yourself, were really compelling. The whole speach was a masterpiece, as was the delivery. This was a major gift to the world. Well done Sir!

  2. Remember that you're privileged. Remember that luck plays a large role in your success. Remember being hurt or betrayed or treated unfairly, so that you might know compassion, loyalty and justice. What a fantastic message to those young men.

  3. As someone who has sat thru two commencement addresses just in the past six weeks, and several others through the years , I can honestly say this was by far the best I have ever heard. Congratulations, sir. And this comes from someone leaning to the left of the aisle.

  4. I am sure you understand his purposed and his wisdom, greatest speech ever since Dr Martin Luther King speech "I have a dream" !

  5. After he retires, he should begin a new career as a stand-up comic. His timing and delivery is impeccable.

  6. Acknowledging /responding to privilege isn't by being nice to the common person, it's by walking a mile in their shoes and understanding their point-of-view. While well-said and true, the speech ironically points out the continued disconnect of the elite from common society I.E. Internet Culture. On a side-note (because of Yahoo redirecting to LA times redirecting to here)The Trump-CNN video was funny and any response, veiled and well-said though it may be, only acknowledges it and makes it stronger.

  7. This is an unexpected quote from the Chief Justice
    of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts.

    10:48

    “I wish you bad luck … so that you will be conscious
    of the role of chance in life, and understand that
    your success is not completely deserved, and that the
    failure of others is not completely deserved, either.”

    Those are uniquely un-Republican and un-Conservative
    words which show rare understanding and insight to the
    life and the world.

    Well said.

  8. Simple, concise, thoughtful, and poignant. Masterful display of Logos, Ethos, Pathos, and Kairos. Beautiful.

    It deserves to be etched in stone.

  9. He's different, and I really love that. This is the commencement speech I would enjoy listening to and feel like I deserve after 4 years of high school. Congratulations sir, that was a job well done

  10. 6:00 Start of speech.
    10:25 I LOVE this sequence. "From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice.
    I hope that you will suffer betrayal cause that will teach you the importance of loyalty.
    Sorry to say but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.
    I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time, so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and the failures of others is not completely deserved either.
    And when you lose as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.
    I hope you will be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others.
    And I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.
    Whether I wish these things or not, they are going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will dependent upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes."
    (Unfortunately (and especially with the gloat part, I can't help but think of the daily negative examples set by President Trump.)
    P.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said in a 2017 BBC interview: “A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back.”
    P.P.S. Here is a lovely story of Justice Kagan told of CJ Roberts. https://youtu.be/RyIr0_ia030?t=1m40s

  11. The reason why he hopes those is ordinarily that only you get throught can you understand. Learning from books is far from enough

  12. 在澎湃上看到了这位大法官在儿子毕业典礼上的讲话,特意跑来在youtube上看了这段原话,非常感动,情词恳切,感人肺腑。人生之路上,并非一帆风顺,很多的时候,充满了背叛,孤独,失败,但愿我们在经历之后,都懂得去给那些正在经历的人,带来安慰,理解和鼓励。更懂得真情不易,真情无价。

  13. next time I see Chief Justice in Port Clyde I will not pretend I don't know who he is and look the other way. This speech was extremely astute.

  14. Commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I'll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don't take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you'll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.

  15. Going up to people who wreck leaves and does other jobs around campuses and saying Hello is excellent. This is from Dale Carnegie's book How To Win Friends and Influence People.

    An excellent line that he called Bob Dylan a great American philosopher.
    At my College, we call Drake as a great Canadian philosopher.

  16. Thank you deeply Chief Justice Roberts. Your words help me remember the good that exists in our government servants, and reminds me to look beyond what makes us different. Very solid advice, and I need to go listen to some Dylan now.

  17. Mr Chief Justice Roberts. I am 75 years old. I have listened to many a Commencement address.
    I served in Vietnam, practiced law and served as a Common Pleas judge. Along the way I learned many things, almost always from other people. Your Cardigan address to middle school young men, was for me an opportunity to pause and review my life.I can report that overall I followed your advice, more importantly there were times when I have fallen short. I will begin to address those points. I use to write letters and enjoyed receiving them. I will renew that practice…once a week ten minutes ( maybe twenty). While I do not share your overall legal philosophy I will always remember what you said at Cardigan. A very sincere thank you.

  18. An inspiring speech grounded in reality without ever being pompous. Blessed is America with leaders like you.

  19. Wow. What a deeply thought and emotionally provoking commencement speech. So glad that he said every word of it. This country needs to hear that. Those kids need to hear that. This is what our leadership should be espousing to fellow Americans.

  20. this is the most beautiful realistic and sober speech I ever listened to. I can't seem to get enough of it…I replay it every single day…thanks for uploading.i hope my 7th generation will come across it. this should be made anthem

  21. Best commencement speech ever. I'm a graduate of Cardigan Mountain School. An amazing place filled with amazing people.

  22. S.N. Brahmaraju
    Theme of the speech is classical. Well done. However, the theme was preached by Indian saints and philosophers thousands and thousands of years ago.

  23. If this was scheduled at a public university, protest from the Leftist would have prevented Roberts from speaking.

  24. If we saw how the stats of the students and families there in the audience of Cardigan Mountain School compare to those of the region and the country, I think we'd see that Justice Roberts couldn't avoid tackling the problems of privilege. His remarks remind me of many speeches that the Kennedys made when they were on campuses around the nation in the '60s: those that have much, have much demanded of them, fittingly.

    I also appreciate his remarks about decentering experiences leading to positive growth — many children of wealthy families manage to make it through their entire youths without getting the message that they are not the center of the universe, and young adults who haven't gotten that message turn out to cause a lot of friction for the broader commonwealth.

    Isn't it interesting that Roberts sounds so much like a Kennedy democrat? That Nixon would today be more in line with Clintonian dems than with the current troubled GOP? That LBJ would today be too much of a radical for national office?

  25. Amazing Speech, Thank you very much Sir, i like all speech, i love special 10:14 to 11:40 ❤❤❤

    By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established (Prov 24;3)
    The rod and reproof give wisdom (Prov 29;15a)
    He who loves wisdom makes his father glad (Prov 29;3a)
    Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding (Prov 23;23)
    How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver (Prov 16;16)

    Will the average person obey authority Despite moral objections?
    The answer is shocking!
    Obedience to Authority: How Far Should You Take It?
    There are two psychological studies that address obedience to authority figures, the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments. These studies show that on average, people will obey authority figures despite moral objections, and will become authoritative and cruel in position of power. We are wired to follow leaders and side with in-groups (and against out-groups as we perceive them) at the expense of moral principles.

    "Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom." – Clifford Stoll

    Data ist 0 and 1 , wisdom ist not 0 and 1
    If we trust blind Data we will lost wisdom and humanity Sir.

  26. Brought a tear to my eye. I hope the chief justice affirms his message daily when making decisions that won't affect his own life but to one to millions of others'.
    I'm dumbfounded by some of the the chief justice's conservative colleagues' abysmal lack of empathy for those who are not wealthy, white, Christian, or corporate.
    Gorsuch's, Alito's, and Thomas' rulings and opinions show overt favoritism for those who (or that) are like-minded.
    One example of many: These three far-right activist justices had empathy for Christian Jack Phillips (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CCRC) and found, without merit, that three statements made by two CCRC members — not even the courts that held the trials — had discriminated against him because of his religion, yet the very next week, they utterly ignored the year and a half Trump spent demonizing and stigmatizing Muslims in support of his Muslim ban.

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