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193 Wesleyan grads to 'find calling in life'

A parting bit of erudition was in store for 193 Dakota Wesleyan University students who graduated Sunday at the Corn Palace. Find your calling in life, advised the Rev. Robert Franklin Jr., a frequent commenter on CNN and National Public Radio's ...

“Mom, the first hug is for you,” says Ryan Roderick following Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Corn Palace. Ryan has high-functioning autism, and Suzette Roderick learned how to teach him, taking him to 41 states and six different colleges to complete his education. “I fought for him,” she says. Ryan earned a 3.1 grade point average toward a bachelor’s degree in sports management. (Andersen / Republic)
“Mom, the first hug is for you,” says Ryan Roderick following Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Corn Palace. Ryan has high-functioning autism, and Suzette Roderick learned how to teach him, taking him to 41 states and six different colleges to complete his education. “I fought for him,” she says. Ryan earned a 3.1 grade point average toward a bachelor’s degree in sports management. (Andersen / Republic)

A parting bit of erudition was in store for 193 Dakota Wesleyan University students who graduated Sunday at the Corn Palace.

Find your calling in life, advised the Rev. Robert Franklin Jr., a frequent commenter on CNN and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why," Franklin said, quoting Mark Twain.

Franklin is senior adviser to the president of Emory University, Atlanta, and president emeritus of Atlanta's Morehouse College. He completed his undergraduate work at Morehouse University, received a master of arts in divinity from Harvard University and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak introduced Franklin by telling graduates they would soon begin their walk down a new road that would be challenging. Students have earned degrees as technical writers, in accounting, in forensic science, she said. Some would be heading overseas for mission work, some to law schools, some to jobs in Mitchell and others to jobs in California.

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Students didn't get this far alone, she said, and they shouldn't forget that.

"You won't accomplish what you dream to do next on your own," Novak told them. "We are all much more powerful together."

Franklin began with a salute to faculty and administrators.

Quoting William Wordsworth, he said: "What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how."

Said Franklin: "We need today's graduates to love what others have loved."

Franklin wove together themes of friendship with the challenges posed by deep divisions in the country.

Never refer to others as enemies but as opponents, he said, referencing Martin Luther King. "Do not dehumanize those who disagree with you," Franklin said. "It prevents self-righteousness."

He offered hope that America's leaders would find common ground.

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Quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, he said: "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."

He encouraged students to repair America's greatness.

"When you choose to defend America's highest ideals, you will become a larger person. Maybe a magnificent person," Franklin said.

He noted that the Greek philosopher Aristotle had devoted two chapters to friendship in his classic work "The Nicomachean Ethics." In them, Aristotle identified three kinds of friendship:

• Friendships of pleasure, those who give us enjoyment in life.

• Friendships of utility, those who give us backstage passes to a concert.

• Friendships of virtue, the highest expression of friendship. People who actively seek the good of the other, because they care about you, and hope to see it realized.

The last was what people strive for, he said, quoting George Eliot: "A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."

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Franklin then asked students to seek that ideal friendship in their relationship with America.

"We all need you to be a friend of the Republic, to be a friend of democracy," he said.

The country and world can be likened to a big house, Franklin said, referencing the final book of Martin Luther King, "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?"

In it, King says: "Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: 'A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.' This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together-black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu-- a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."

Franklin offered some advice for finding ways of living together, quoting John Adams: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

He also suggested ways of treating others, quoting Thomas S. Monson: "When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be."

Lastly, Franklin advised courage.

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality," he said, quoting C.S. Lewis.

Franklin closed with the challenge attributed to Rabbi Hillel, a doctor of law at Jerusalem in the time of King Herod. "The world is equally balanced between good and evil, our next act will tip the scale."

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