I don't know about you, but I have a hard time remembering where I hear or see things these days. Was it on the news? Did I see it on Twitter? Did I read it on someone's blog. Hell, did an actual person tell me something in an actual conversation? So many different sources of information, they all seem to blend together after a while.
Someone, somewhere, wrote or said something about Toni Morrison's commencement address at Rutgers University. I remember being interested at the time, I've always been a big Toni Morrison fan. I saw hear speak when I was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. She spoke at the basketball stadium, and with all due respect to the Badger b ballers of my day, it was probably the best thing to happen in that building during my time in Madison. I made a mental note to look into it further when I had more time.
While I was looking for video of the speech, I came across this excerpt:
I have often wished that Jefferson had not used that phrase “the pursuit of happiness” as the third right — although I understand in the first draft it was “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” Of course, I would have been one of those properties one had the right to pursue, so I suppose happiness is an ethical improvement over a life devoted to the acquisition of land, acquisition of resources, acquisition of slaves. Still, I would rather he had written “life, liberty and the pursuit of meaningfulness” or “integrity” or “truth.” I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter. But I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life; it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.
I wonder if the kids at Rutgers were inspired by these words. I know I was.