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.