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Harris Blackwood: Never yield, write letters, put the phone away and other advice for new grads
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

Over the past couple of weeks, a vast assortment of people have sprinkled college and high school graduates with their wisdom and counsel for the next chapter in their lives.

The candidates for graduation are being told to forge ahead, go for it all, never stop dreaming the dream and other various interpretations of how to find post-graduate success.

Some academician wrote in a national magazine this week that students should not follow their dream. I don’t know about that.

At Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, students will hear from Ai-jen Poo. Ms. Poo is an activist for domestic workers and received a MacArthur Genius Grant. Smith is a prestigious women’s college and with room and board it costs nearly $75,000 a year to go there.

At the University of Georgia, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of the band “Lady Antebellum” were the speakers. In recent years, the speakers have included Ryan Seacrest, who talked a lot about his hair.

Another recent speaker was Ernie Johnson Jr., the tv sports host. He raised the bar to new heights. They should have seen if he was available again.

At Goucher College in Baltimore, they are bringing in Bill Nye, the science guy. You can make your own conclusions on that.

At Dartmouth, cellist Yo-Yo Ma is the speaker. If he pulls out his cello, this could be good. Maybe he can play, “As the Backs go Tearing By,” the Dartmouth fight song or “Dartmouth Undying” the alma mater.

On Oct. 29, 1941, as war was looming over Great Britain, Winston Churchill went to his alma mater, the Harrow school, and gave a brief speech to the young men, many of whom would likely be called to serve their country.

The speech included these remarks:

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

There was more, but you’ve got to admit that was a pretty good start.

You didn’t ask, but here’s my take on a little post-graduation advice.

Write the people who raised you a thank you note. For God’s sake, not a text message, but find a decent pen and piece of paper and thank them for getting you this far.

Do something nice for someone. For the cost of a couple of beers on your senior trip, you can buy someone a meal. Just give the money to a waitress and ask her to help you find someone in need.

Find a teacher or someone who influenced your life and go by and tell them what their advice meant to you. My wife is a teacher and sometimes her former students do this and it is like pouring in jet fuel. It makes her proud of her profession.

Help a stranger fix a flat tire, find a lost dog or help them with directions. Do something to make their way a little better.

Put down that damn phone and look around at the place that gave you a start. You may want to move as far as possible from here, but this is a good place and it served as your launching pad.

Oh yeah, read that Churchill quote again.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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