Well wishes for the Clas of ‘007
Gary Caruso | Friday, April 20, 2007
Rarely does a year’s numerical arrangement offer a cute correlation to an icon like the parallel this year between the Class of ‘007 with the fictional international spy James Bond. But this week is not a cute one with the massacre at Virginia Tech. Neither is this a charming year with the carnage that defies understanding of both young Americans and Iraqis in the Middle East. The feel of our time is reminiscent of my second semester of freshman year when four students were murdered at Kent State.
It may seem whimsically befitting that at this time of international strife and uncertainty, this year’s seniors can be branded with the James Bond code name of “007.” Yet it is evident that for the near future, the years ahead will be filled with learning experiences in hope of healing an unsettled world. Life at times is cruel, shocking and unforgiving. Ask the families of sons and daughters lost on the Virginia Tech campus. Ask the maimed servicemen and servicewomen who return from Iraq each day with the scars and nightmares of war.
Within a month, the Notre Dame senior class will march onward to many personal and individual victories. Graduates will disperse in every direction like the high-flying seeds of a mature dandelion scattering on a windy day. Their choices in life can be motivated by either fear or love. All of us must decide if we are motivated by fear so that we are reactive, or if we are motivated by love so that we reach out to others in a proactive way. Tragically, many of us never know that we have a choice.
Notre Dame teaches its graduates to know better, to be better and to act better – not in a self-righteous way, but in service to others. The bonds of love felt at Virginia Tech in light of this week’s tragedy are the bonds Notre Dame slowly, subtly instills in its graduates throughout their four-year journey. Many times, though, graduates who believe in absolute certainties diminish their ability for tolerance, open-mindedness and acceptance. However, sometimes the greater forces of the universe change individuals through an abrupt tragedy or death.
This column regularly recalls Notre Dame’s so-called “angels,” the great friends and teachers who change or mold a student’s outlook. In my era, Frank O’Malley, Tom Stritch and Father Robert Griffin were among the iconic figures in our hearts. Most recently, former Notre Dame Security/Police Director Rex Rakow joined that heavenly group. Their thoughts, their deeds and their warmth were the formula that sprouted their wings, but more importantly, touched our hearts.
The members of the Class of ‘007 cannot conform like puppets to a small segment of our society – although they have sought acceptance within the campus community for nearly four years. Do not confine yourselves to your sense of belonging, to your sense of behavior, or to your sense of morality. If you do limit yourselves, you will strike out against those who are different rather than embrace and tolerate others in our world.
In the family of nations, wisdom is the first cousin of freedom while freedom is the glory of our nation. Without wisdom we cannot be a beacon of light. We cannot be brave, gallant or kind. This nation once stood as the beacon of truth because others yearned for our ideals. Recently, we lost our moral authority with secret prisons, torture, indifference and duplicity. Our leaders replaced wisdom with an ideology.
Does anyone think the world can find answers when we have no dialogue? One thing is for sure, when the Class of ‘007 grasps the torch of leadership, our nation will be less bigoted and more inclusive. The world will know that this year’s graduates have asked the questions and extended a hand. It may take a decade to solve today’s current international mess, but it is possible to heal and unite the world. Just when we have walked through a valley thinking that the sun has gone down on us, we should remember that it always comes up again.
Wisdom sometimes comes from the most unlikely sources, and we must learn to open our eyes to everyone. Robert Stroud, the famous prisoner known as “the Birdman of Alcatraz,” found a baby sparrow and raised it to maturity. Whenever he thought it was time for the bird to go out into the world on its own, he said, “You best go find out who you are. Kick up dust, dance to fiddle music, taste sweet whiskey and red-eyed gravy. Bite the stars for me.”
In the true tradition of Bond, James Bond, this writer has high hopes for the future of this year’s graduates and wishes the Class of ‘007 many bites at the stars. The dust, fiddle music, whiskey and red-eyed gravy are at your discretion.
Gary Caruso, Notre Dame ’73, is a political strategist who served as a
legislative and public affairs director in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.