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A graduation speech for us

June 28, 2011
by H. Steven Moffic, MD
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One of my favorite times of the year is graduation time. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it is because I never graduated from college, so I never got to hear one of those inspiring speakers.

When we finish our specialized education in behavioral healthcare, no matter what discipline, we usually don’t have any special speaker because our class sizes are too small. So, deprived again. Annually, then, at this time of year, I look forward to reading about what some of these speakers have said. This year the challenge to the speakers seemed greater, given the poor job market for the graduates. Some of the comments that got my attention, especially for their psychological meaning, were:

“Finding passion is kind of your job now."
-Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, at the University of Southern California

“The simple truth is that people usually get what is most important and fulfilling to them by pursuing what is most important and fulfilling to them rather than being borne by the currents."
-Elaine Kagan, Supreme Court Justice of the USA, at the University of New Mexico Law School

“It takes courage to stand up to power, to take an unpopular stand, to risk life and limb and livelihood for your ideals . . .”
-Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, at George Washington University

“There is no substitution for real people, not mouse clicks or avatars ... so if you want to get something done in the world, never forget – ultimately – you have to get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face."
-Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, at Tulane University

“Most of us are egotistical, and most of us are self-centered most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only when the self dissolves into some larger task and summons."
-David Brooks, New York Times Columnist, at Rice University

“Heal the world, and in the process, heal yourself."
-Tony Kushner, American Playwright and Screenwriter, at Muhlenberg College

“Thou shall not stand idly by."
-Elie Wiesel, Writer, Nobel Prize Laureate, and Holocaust Survivor, at Washington University in St. Louis

“We have research from the department of psychology at Harvard that if a college commencement speaker drones on for more than 15 minutes, only about a quarter of students continue to pay attention; another quarter drift off to sleep; and the other half – these being undergraduates – engage in sexual fantasies."
-David Gergen, Political analyst, at Bentley University

Well, if you’re still with me, I hope it didn’t take too long and you’ve not drifted into some sort of fantasy, unless that fantasy is how to help our behavioral healthcare world. Because I just noticed a common theme in those quotes that got my attention. They were to immerse yourself in a larger cause with passion.

Now, perhaps many of us are still satisfied with our day to day workday. I know I’m not. There’s much less time to do more. The system I am most familiar with verges on preventing clinicians from providing competent care. Translated, we can be accused of unethical care not of our making.

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Steve:

You've definitely hit the nail on the head here. Rather than being guilty of standing idly by, as Weisel says, it's a time to plunge in and keep at it.

It takes years of experiencesomething not available to current graduatesto see that the key to a really satisfying life is to pursueand then doyour best in a greater cause. The sincerity of one's pursuit attracts others who are also sincere and multiplies the power and effectiveness of the effort.

The challenges we face are not easy, nor is the single-minded pursuit of a goal. But in the end, the pursuit, the accomplishment of something good, something "worth it" is all we've got.

Againwell said.

Dennis Grantham

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H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...