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Commencement Weekend

Michael Gillespie '00
Remarks at the Alumni Legacy Breakfast
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,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour. . .

Translation:

When April with its rains came down
And soothed the soil - that March parched ground
And bathed every vine in such liquor,
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 to today.

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 see.

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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