Hope. Truth. Discomfort.
These are what it takes to change the world, according to someone who should know: Bryan Stevenson, the criminal justice reformer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
Stevenson gave the keynote address at Penn’s 263rd commencement today, sending the newly-minted graduates off with a four-part prescription for how to change the world:
- Get proximate to people who are suffering. We cannot solve the world’s greatest problems if we stay isolated or distant from those problems.
- Change the narratives that are shaping many of the debates that we hear. We’re going to have to fight against the politics of fear and anger.
- Stay hopeful. You cannot change the world if you allow hopelessness to shape your aspirations. I believe that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
- Do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. We are surrounded by people who have made that choice and they have lived lives that have taught us how to make those uncomfortable choices.
Ultimately, Stevenson said, “You will be judged by the help you provide to the poor, the neglected, the incarcerated and the disfavored.” Is there anything more important to tell new grads than that?
If you watch one thing this week, let it be this:Bryan Stevenson