tv University of Mississippi School of Law Commencement Address CSPAN May 24, 2014 1:20pm-1:36pm EDT
do you follow me? these chicks would hatch. i would take these chicks and give them to another hen and put them in a box with a lantern and raise them on their own. get some more fresh eggs, mark them with a pencil, and sit for another three weeks. what i look back, it was not the right thing to do. not the moral thing, not the most loving thing to do. it was not the most democratic thing to do, but i saved $18.98 to order the most expensive incubator. most of you are old enough to remember the big book. the heavy book --
some people call it the wish book. i kept on wishing. i wanted to be a minister. from time to time, with the help of my brothers and sisters, we would gather all of our chickens together in the chicken yard. my brothers and sisters and cousins would line the outside of the chicken yard and make up the audience, the congregation. when i look back on it, some of the chickens without their heads. somewhat shake their heads. they never said amen. but i am convinced that the great majority of those chickens that i preached to tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in the congress. some of those chickens were a little more productive. at least they produced eggs.
[applause] today, on this day, i just want to tell you a story or two. when i was visiting that little town of troy were visiting montgomery, when i would visit birmingham -- i saw signs of white men. colored men, white women, colored women, waiting. i would ask my mother, ask my father, why? they said, that is the way it is. do not get in the way, do not get in trouble. one day, in 1955, 15 years old in the 10th grade, i heard about rosa parks. i heard the words of martin luther king on the radio. the words of dr. king, the actions of rosa parks, inspired me to find a way to get in the way.
with some of my brothers and sisters and cousins, we went down to the little town of troy. trying to check out some books from the public library. trying to get library cards. we were told by the library and the library was for whites only. i never went back to the public library. on july 5, 1998, for a book signing. hundreds of blacks and white citizens showed up. signed a lot of books, had a wonderful reception. at the end of the reception, they gave me a library card. that may not sound that important. when people tell me that nothing has changed in this state, change in america -- i say, come and walk in my shoes.
the state is a different state. our region is a different region. we are a better people. we are on our way to the vision. the burden of separation. we're on our way to the creation of the beloved community. and i have said to you, you must find a way to get in the way. to get in trouble. good trouble, necessary trouble. that is your responsibility. as you do not have a right -- you must speak up, you must speak out and bring justice to our region, to our country, and to the world. that is your calling. yes, if someone had told me that one day, this boy growing up in
rural alabama would one day have an opportunity to serve in the united states house of representatives, representing the good people of georgia -- for almost 28 years -- it can happen. as lawyers, you must make your way out of no way. yes, you must get in the way. you can do it. you have been trained. you have learned from the best. you have to give back. just don't just do well. do good. be brave. be bold. be courageous. and never, ever give up.
never, ever give in. never, ever give out. hold on. keep your eyes on the prize. this is your day. thank you for being you. thank your parents, your husband, your wives. your sisters, and your brothers. thank your dean. thank your professors. it has been hard for some of you. my mother used to tell me when i was working in the field -- you are not keeping up. i said this is hard work. it is about to kill me. she said hard work never killed anybody. keep on, press on. get involved. forget about your own circumstances and get involved in the circumstances of others.
not just here. in the other state we call america. not just in the state of mississippi or the south, but around the world. follow the way of peace. follow the way of love. follow the way of nonviolence. i was beaten, left bloodied, unconscious. a concussion on the bridge in selma. i am not bitter, i am not hostile. i believe we can redeem the soul of america and create the beloved community. i tell you one story. it is not about me, it is that you. when i was growing up, i was in alabama, 50 miles from montgomery. i had an aunt. she lived in what we call a
shotgun house. here at ole miss -- here in the state of mississippi, here in the american south, you have never seen a shotgun house. you don't even know what i'm talking about. she did not have a green, manicured lawn. the lawn is beautiful here. she had a dirt yard. this old shotgun house, you could look up at night through the roof, the tin roof, and count the stars. when it rained, we got a pail to catch the rainwater. from time to time, she would walk out into the woods and put these branches together. tie these branches together to make a broom.
she would sweep this yard clean. especially on friday or saturday. she wanted it to look good during the weekend. for those of you who do not know what a shotgun house is, it is an old house, one way in and one way out. you can bounce a basketball through the front door. one afternoon, a group of my brothers and sisters and a few of my first cousins -- about 12 or 15 of us young children, were playing in the yard. an unbelievable storm came up. the thunder started rolling. the lightning started flashing. my aunt became terrified. she started crying. she thought the house would blow away. she got all of us together and told us to hold hands.
we did as we were told and we all cried. when this house appeared to be lifted from its foundation, my aunt had us walk to the corner to hold the house in place. when the other corner appeared to be lifted, we walked to that corner. the children were walking with the wind, but we never left the house. call it the house of ole miss. call it the house of mississippi. call it the house of georgia. call it the house of new york or california, texas. we all live in the same house. not just american house, but the world house. it does not matter whether we are black or white, latino, asian american, or native
american. we are one people, one family, we all live in the same house. we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, as dr. king said. or we will perish as fools. go out there, use the law as an instrument. use it as a tool to bring about a nonviolent revolution. a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. you can do it. on your time, on your watch, you must do it. thank you very much. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] almost 50 years after he graduated, senator johnny isakson returned to his alma mater.
graduates about his seven silent secrets to happiness and success. this is about 15 minutes. >> wasn't she terrific? make it quick, isakson. honored graduates of the class of 2014, friends and significant others, congratulations. it is an honor to be here today. i have to tell you a secret. when jere morehead called me up and said i want you to be the speaker at the spring commencement, i was ecstatic. this is my alma mater. 48 years ago, i graduated from the university of georgia.
[applause] all of my children graduated from the university of georgia. my wife graduated from the university of georgia. when i got that phone call, i was ecstatic. i leaned back after i hung the phone up. i closed the door my office and i said this must be the greatest speech you have ever delivered. you better lean back and think for inspiration. this is your one chance to climb the rhetorical heights of ecstasy. i thought if i could impact my college education, all of the memorable parts of it, and the great information i received, i could give a great speech tonight. remember that day, june the sixth. a brand-new coliseum is where it was held. i remember the joy on my parents faces. the first child in our family to graduate from an institution of higher education. every member the good-looking blonde who sat in front of me. for the life of me, i could not
remember who spoke at my graduation or what they said. then i realize that this is not about me. this is about you. for just a couple of minutes, i want to share with you something that i call the six silent secrets of living a happy, successful, and fulfilling life. they really are not secrets. everyone of them is known. each one is a part of the tenets of every major religion. each one is an academy award-winning motion pictures. parents do not talk about them enough with their kids. officers do not talk about them with their students. none of us adults talk about them with each other. they're important secrets. i know you will forget who spoke at your graduation, but i deeply care that you're a member the six silent secrets of living a happy, successful, as the filling life. the first one is learning. today, you graduate from an institution full of classrooms.
in the bigger classroom, known as the world around you, many of you will take your diploma and frame it and hang it on the wall. use it like a passport and have it validated over and over and over. this is called commencement because all of us know that your education and college is something you build on for your entire career. the body of knowledge is compounded every seven years. it has been almost 49 years since i graduated. knowledge is compounded seven times since i left. most of the things i learned have not been true or have been amended. as i learned how to learn, i have built my body of knowledge to compete in this day and this time. so, never stop learning. the most difficult subject i had to deal with upon being elected to the united states senate was