To those that were either present at graduation or listened after the fact to my December 2013 Georgia Tech Commencement Speech, one thing is clear: the subject was definitely off the beaten track, as least as far as commencement speeches go! That subject? Love. L-O-V-E. I am pleased to say that my speech has received universally positive reviews, by more than just a few folks. If you weighed in, thank you!
Why love? Well, I hate being boring in anything I do, and I certainly relish doing things that others have not tried. And, heck, love is a topic catchy enough and simple enough to easily recall after the fact. It also afforded me the rare opportunity to share things that are very close to my heart. I figured that folks might not remember who I am the next day, but they might recall what I spoke about. The cruel truth (known to all professors who endure many, many graduations year in and year out as they hood their students) is that 99% of commencement speeches fade into oblivion within an hour, maybe two. Tops. Truth be told, I wanted to buck that trend. Being named the 2013 winner of the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award (the highest honor Georgia Tech bestows on its faculty) afforded me the opportunity to do the speech (a fine tradition).
I thought it might be fun to share a little of the back matter of that speech, including the original sources I used and some associated trivia. Here goes:
- How did Cressler know that his speech was # 449,503? Well, as I stated, it was a crude estimate. At present there are 4,495 colleges and universities in the US. I assumed an average age of 50 years, and 2 graduations per year. Even though it is a monstrous number, this is a clearly conservative, since most universities are much older than 50 years, and many have 3 graduations per year (spring, summer, fall).
- Is Cressler’s speech the only one that deals with love as a theme? Hard to say definitively, but I did do extensive google searching and found nothing remotely similar. I’ll stick by unique.
- Was Father Ed Wroblewski really a professor of homiletics at Maryknoll Seminary? Indeed he was. Father Ed is still alive and well at 88 years young and continues to wield a mind like a steel trap. Maryknoll is about one hour’s drive north of New York City. We go way back. By the way, yes, he thought my speech was “interesting.”
- Who was Joseph Campbell? A famous professor at Sarah Lawrence College. He is well known for the seminal book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, and you may recall Bill Moyers’s PBS series on Campbell and the companion book, The Power of Myth. Riveting stuff. The notions of “bliss” and “following your bliss” are his. Bliss as a fifth form of love, and the connection of bliss to living out your “Original Purpose” are mine.
- Who was Ignatius of Loyola? Ignatius lived in the early 16th century in Spain, and was the founder of the Jesuit Order in the Catholic Church (our present Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be pope). The Jesuits are famous for several things – their teaching vocation and schools/universities (e.g., Georgetown is Jesuit), their service to the poor, and Ignatian Silent Retreats (my wife Maria is the Executive Director of Ignatius House Retreat Center north of Atlanta – visit: http://www.ignatiushouse.org/ – and I have made silent retreats twice yearly for over 15 years now). Ignatius’ notion of discovering our Original Purpose (OP), and honoring God by living that OP out to its fullest, is his. The very heart of Ignatian Spiritualty.
- Is Cressler really a novelist? Indeed I am. I have published five non-fiction books to date (two for general audiences), and my debut historical novel, Emeralds of the Alhambra, an interfaith love story set in 14th century Muslim Spain, was released in June of 2013. It is the first book in a series titled Anthems of al-Andalus. Book 2, Shadows in the Shining City, will be released in the spring of 2014 (Sunbury Press). Visit: http://johndcressler.com/emeralds-of-the-alhambra.
Where does Cressler do his homeless ministry in Atlanta? I work with JustFaith Ministries along Hollowell Parkway (a.k.a. Bankhead Highway), each Saturday morning. A truly wonderful experience.
My Commencement Speech can be viewed at: