Go into the world

People say that words can’t change things.  I disagree.  Words can inspire.  Words can unite.  Words can make someone stop and think, and sometimes that can change the world.  I believe that the words of Minor Myers Jr. have changed me.  It is graduation season, and every year at this time I think of the words that he shared at my graduation.

Minor Myers was the President of Illinois Wesleyan University.  He was the heart of the university, the classic Renaissance Man, and the example of what a liberal arts education is all about.  His two most distinctive features were his hair and his eyes.  The former always appeared to have recently emerged from a wind tunnel and the latter looked like he was about to wink at you with a shared secret joke.  As the President of the University, he gave the final address at graduation.  The conclusion of his remarks each year were the same.  He would look out at the graduating class and wonder.  I paraphrase: Who will startup the first successful company?  Who will discover a new medical procedure?  Who will write the first best selling book or win the first arts award?  As he looked out at the 500 or so young people that were ready to go out into the world, he would close with these words:

Go into the world and do well.  But more importantly, go into the world and do good.” (Dr. Minor Myers, Jr.)

His words captured me the first time I heard them, and I have thought of those words at every graduation I have been to since.  In fact, I have thought of those words many times in my life.  It’s hard to say if those words changed my life.  I probably would have ended up a pastor, trying with all my heart to do good, even if it weren’t for his words.  But maybe not.

As I sat in the quad in my deep green robe, I was wondering the same thing he was wondering.  The world was open to me, and I was going out into it.  I was hoping to do well.  I’m not sure if I was thinking about doing good.  Here I am, ten years later (has it really been ten years?) and his words have stayed with me.  I don’t know if his words changed me, but they certainly helped form me, and when I shared them in my sermon this morning, I hope they formed someone else too.

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3 responses to “Go into the world

  1. Nicole


    How funny that you should post about this. I wrote a blog about it a few months ago. Isn’t it good to know that we had a president who had such influence on his students? I’m not sure that most college students have that kind of relationship with their president.

    I’ll never forget all that happened my senior year. It was so sad when he passed. And on graduation day, I played those words in my head that I had heard him say at previous graduations. And my friends and I took a picture with his statue to commemorate the day.

    Anyway, here’s the post:

    also, did you know you can buy his quote on a magnet?

    or a tote bag. Weird!:


  2. Wonderful article. Myers had a lot in common with Wesleyan, probably because of how much he shaped it: wickedly smart, well-versed in the liberal arts, and tragically under-appreciated. I didn’t appreciate how much there was to him until after his death, when I did some digging on his publications and such. I regret not knowing him better when I had the opportunity. There are too few true polymaths in our time.

    Scott Fenstermaker ’00

  3. Pingback: Fifty days later… #pentecost | Jules P. Richards

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