May 19, 2007

Bill Moyers tells graduates 'the world needs fixing'

SMU celebrates 92nd commencement

Bill Moyers at SMU on 19 May 2007
Bill Moyers
Related Links:
 • See a video of Moyers' speech.
 • Read the text of Moyers' speech.
 • Download the speech to your iPod
   as an audio(21m) or video(137m) file.

 • About the Class of 2007.
 • Commencement Weekend slide shows.
 • About the honorary degree recipients.

In his commencement address Saturday at Southern Methodist University, journalist and author Bill Moyers told graduates that he tore up the speech he had written for the occasion after the deaths at Virginia Tech.

"This moment, this time together, the only time we'll all be in the same place ever again, is all the more hallowed for thinking about how precious life is, and how fragile and fleeting," Moyers said. "Take hold of this day, pull it close, squeeze from it every drop of joy and camaraderie and fellowship you can."

His original speech, he said, was filled with the usual good wishes and sage advice for young graduates, but he could not approach SMU’s commencement without thinking of the young people whose lives were lost. Instead, he told them, “the world needs fixing,” noting the war in Iraq and the widening gap between rich and poor.

"You're not leaving here in an ordinary time," Moyers said. "The ancient Greeks had a word for a moment like this: They called it kairos. Euripides described it as ‘the moment when one seizes the helm of fate and forces fortune.’

"So as one coming in here ... to ask what you want to do to make the most of your life, I thought, ‘Please, God, let me be looking in the face of some young man or woman who is going to transcend the normal arcs of life — who is going one day to break through, inspire us, challenge us, and call forth from us the greatness of spirit that in our best moments has fired the world’s imagination.’ One of you might do it,” Moyers told the graduates, their family and friends who attended commencement convocation in SMU's Moody Coliseum.

In his speech, Moyers also talked about the frailty of civilized society and the graduates' responsibility to help hold it together.

“Life is a shared project," Moyers said. "Civilization, my young friends, is not a natural act. Civilization is a veneer of civility placed across primal human appetites. And in my experience civilization has to be willed, it has to be practiced, and it has to be constantly repaired.”

More than 3,000 degrees were awarded Saturday at Moody Coliseum and in separate ceremonies conducted by each school. Honorary degrees were presented to Moyers, as well as to business executive and civic leader William T. Solomon, and SMU professor and author Marsh Terry.

The event marked SMU's 92nd commencement.

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