Hats off

St. Lawrence grads and families had a double bill yesterday – a biggy and a smally – to quote the old motto of the former Big Wally’s diner in Long Lake. NBC journalist Tom Brokaw. And Gardenshare founder Phil Harnden.

Brokaw received an honorary degree, and delivered by all accounts a fine speech that celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments and warned of the difficult world they are commencing to share:

You are leaving this sanctuary of learning and innocence in a season of uncertainty and anxiety. Daily there are painful reminders that the economic model that has defined your lives was a house of cards.
Indeed, it is a shambles that will not be easily repaired, and even then, it will have a far different shape and evoke far different expectations.

“We lost our way,” he went on, ” and allowed greed and excess to become the twin pillars of  too much of the financial culture. We became a society utterly absorbed in consumption and dismissive of moderation.”

Then there are rogue nations, environmental degradation, ideological tyranny.

It’s a complicated, sobering context. Go forth, he closed:

This country was built on big, bold ideas that served the common welfare. We’re a democratic republic, not a collection of fiefdoms changing the fundamental rules of governance with every election cycle.

No remarks of mine or parental advice will be adequate substitute for your own determination and commitment to excellence. We’re not your GPS system; at best, as commentators and parents, we’re road signs. You must find your own way and I have little doubt you will.

On these occasions in the past I’ve said, “It’s easy to make a buck; it’s tough to make difference.” Then a parent suggested a re-wording: “It’s tough to make a buck but if you make a lot of bucks, you can make a big difference.” So for a time I offered both observations as a final word.

This year and these times required still another revision:

“It’s a lot tougher to make a make a buck but making a difference has its own rich reward.”

Go forth and make a difference.

God knows, we need your help.

Brokaw was the headliner, but some local observers — including our fellow blogger, Ellen Rocco, in today’s In Box, thought Harden stole the show. He received a North Country Citation from SLU for his work to help make sure families in the region have enough good food.

He began:

I stand here this morning mindful of the many men and women in our communities who struggle daily to put food on the table for their families. With dignity and determination, they do the hard and the hidden work.

And concluded:

I salute you. And, at least in my own mind, I accept this citation on your behalf.

Thank you.

The full remarks are short…you can read them next door, in The In Box.

3 Comments on “Hats off”

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  1. Keith Silliman says:

    Big Wally’s!!! Alays went there when coming out of the woods– looking for real food…

  2. Bret4207 says:

    Big Wallys. Breakfast at 4AM. RIP Bob and Chris.

  3. Martha Foley says:

    I’ve long hoped I could work Big Wally’s in somewhere…

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