Writing about Mr. Rogers and his commencement speech reminded me of the words I spoke to my oldest son at his high school graduation party, when we were sharing memories of him and wishing him well. I’ve re-read those words at various turning points in my, and my son’s, life.
Nick graduated in 2003–I was about 5 years divorced from his dad by then. In my words to him I quoted the line from Saint Exuprey that Mr. Rogers had framed above his desk.
One thing I learned having you and your brother is that you are both inextricably bound to me and yet you are separate. You came with your own little programs.
A graduation is like any other marker in life–it’s all about opportunity and loss. This world, this family, are not what I imagined they’d be when I envisioned your future when you were a baby in my arms. And in that is another truth–you cannot protect your children from suffering–and sometimes, despite all your wishes, you even cause some of it.
It’s been important for me as a parent to remain humble in the face of the young man you are–not imagine that I’ve made you the fine and sensitive person you are, but realize I’ve simply had a hand in guiding you.
I woke up this morning thinking of a favorite line from The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
If there is anything you can say I’ve given you, I hope it’s a desire to know what is truly in your heart and to act on what your heart tells you. I believe it always tells you what’s right.
I hope I let you know that you don’t have to do great, successful or ambitious things, you only have to try your best to be a good person–a kind, gentle and compassionate man–a mensch–that that is the work of your life, and if you do that you will achieve more good in this world than you can ever imagine.
You have taught me so much–I love you more than you will ever know.