Michael Gillespie '00
Remarks at the Alumni Legacy
Commencement morning, May 21, 2000
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of
March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
which vertu engendred is the flour. . .
When April with its rains came down
soothed the soil - that March parched ground
And bathed every vine in such
Of which virtue engendered is the flower. . .
Well, Chaucer got everything right except that it is now May that we
get our reprieve.
Chaucer wrote these lines about the journey of a motley band
of pilgrims, on their motley pilgrimage to Canterbury to see and be blessed by
the relics of the martyr, Thomas à Beckett. And though he delivered these
lines in a distant place and in a distant time - there are striking similarities
Chaucer was, of course, delivering his famous Tales as an oral presentation -
much like this presentation; and Chaucer was presenting to a resplendent court of
nobles - just as I receive this honor of addressing this noble entourage.
Please ignore the fact that Chaucer was creating fictions - because I assure
you that everything I say is the truth - including my version of how my fellow
graduates are going to depart from Davidson on their lusty pilgrimage and quickly
conquer the world.
I will only refer to one bawdy fabliaux - that of last night's delicious
festival of Bacchaus. It left many of us reveling and reeling in our last night
of the Davidson College experience. On behalf of all soon-to-be-graduates, I
thank the parents for providing this event.
Thanks to the other people who have made the Davidson College experience
valuable. The presidents - Kuykendall and Vagt. The deans; Tom Shandley, who has
been a mentor and a friend. A personal thanks to the English department and its
various personalities. Thanks to the library, the computer lab, every other
faculty member who makes the Davidson education dynamic by turning information
into knowledge. Thanks to hundreds of books; many, many lectures; and, on that
note, thanks to coffee, no doze, and hallmates who realize what is due tomorrow.
And I dare not mention this institution, without invoking the assistance of the
Almighty and merciful God.
But you should note that I have left out the most important group. I have
mentioned the players, but here are the pilgrims - The great student body. For
them, I thank you - the parents.
Thank you for letting me spend four wonderful years with such an endearing
group of people. I had never been impressed before I joined this college
community. I had never been challenged until I came to Davidson and was forced to
match their minds. I had not been inspired till I sat among them - and let me
tell you, that I have never been proud as I am to stand among them today - and
graduate - to the status of faithful, supportive, and paying alumni.
My fellow graduates let me congratulate you on your accomplishment. Let me
say, You Are Davidson. Cherish where you come from. And cherish the time you have
done in achieving this status. I have seen you in the brutal servitude of
scholarship and the brilliance of mastery. You have no betters as far as I can
That being said, I have been marked this morning with the task of issuing you
a challenge. So now I step forward to throw down the glove.
But to understand
my challenge, you've got to understand me.
I come from the beach. And for me, living at the beach means waking up
everyday to the By-God-most glorious sunrise you can imagine. A progression of
colors that cannot be captured on film. And an ocean so calm and inviting that it
emphasizes the horizon as your natural destination.
Now, I have a friend who has a deep love for running in these early mornings.
And this friend, he is fast. Long legs, a tireless sprint, he has all the benfits
that nature could present him with. But this friend, he has this thing he does,
when he's running, he points his fingers like this - and when I asked him why, he
shrugged, then he said that it helped him run faster, because it made him focus
on the point just ahead.
This sounded like a fine idea to me, because I've always had a feeling that I
was attention deficient, and I NEED things to focus me on the task at hand.
But as I stand before you today, I ask you not to look only to the task at
hand. Yes, I ask you to feel each step you take, and relish the pure sensual
release of the moment. And remember the things that you have seen and the good
and the bad things that make for a truly empathetic lifetime.
But I want you to run with your fingers to the future. I want you to live with
that glorious dawn in front of you, reaching with each fragile moment for the
horizon that shows you the colorful prospects of what can be.
Because, I know you.
You are each too special to let this slip by. I am
being deprived of the pleasure and honor of staying on the same campus and
watching you aspire and gain. So I want you to do it out there.
And then I want you to come back and show me.
A pilgrim voyage is half for
themselves and half others. A story is half for its author and half for the
readers whom it prods to follow and grow. I ask you do only what you are capable
of, and I will accept no excuses.
In closing, I am a fallible man. But I am Davidson. But that which is Davidson
in me, will continue to push me forward, climb higher, and grasp for the very
top. As you continue your pilgrimage - to that final airy destination - let
Davidson exist as the source and a legacy to your success.
I thank you, and my best wishes to everyone.
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