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Fred Rogers’ 2002 Dartmouth College Commencement Address

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2019

In 2002, Fred Rogers gave the commencement address at Dartmouth College, where he attended school as a freshman before transferring out. The video recording of the address is only 16 minutes long and worth watching in full.

A transcript is here. Some passages that felt meaningful to me:

Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. We are intimately related. May we never even pretend that we are not.

I have a lot of framed things in my office, which people have given to me through the years. And on my walls are Greek, and Hebrew, and Russian, and Chinese. And beside my chair, is a French sentence from Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince. It reads, “L’essential est invisible pour les yeux.” What is essential is invisible to the eye. Well, what is essential about you? And who are those who have helped you become the person you are? Anyone who has ever graduated from a college, anyone who has ever been able to sustain a good work, has had at least one person, and often many, who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.

It’s not the honors and the prizes, and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted. That we never have to fear the truth. That the bedrock of our lives, from which we make our choices, is very good stuff.

But holy shit Fred, “our differences are infinitesimal” is a really hard thing to keep in mind these days. How do we even do that?