A Graduation Speech About Deathbed Reflections

This is a really short post to direct you to this excellent commencement address delivered by Ryan T. Anderson.

He titled it, “‘He Knows What He Is About’: Living a Life That Matters”, which is derived from one of the most splendid quotations of John Henry Newman that Dr. Anderson quotes at the outset and on which my friends and I have been reflecting a lot in recent days.

Particularly of relevance to the theme of this blog, I was struck by how Dr. Anderson exhorted the high schoolers on multiple occasions throughout the address to contemplate the thoughts they might have on their deathbeds as a key to discerning how to live a life that matters.

Below are three short excerpts:


Not one of us will look back on our deathbed and say, “I wish I had prayed less.” “I wish I had spent less time talking to Jesus, less time reading his Word, less time worshiping with his body, the Church.” None of us will look back and regret our baptisms. As you graduate today, do not take your faith for granted. It is the most important gift you’ve been given by God, nurtured by your family and this school.


Second, remember that God created us in His image and likeness, meaning we’re rational and free beings. God is Logos. He is reason itself, and we have a calling to develop our minds. No one will sit on their death bed and say “I wish I had wasted more time on Twitter and Facebook,” or “I wish I had binge-watched more Netflix original series.” Nor, I hope, will you say, “I wish I had spent less time discovering the truth about God, the cosmos, and man’s place in it. I wish I had read less Shakespeare and listened to fewer Bach cantatas.” Develop your mind to discern the deep truths embedded in creation and appreciate the beauty that man can make in service to God. Do not waste your intellects on frivolous pursuits.


Now, you sometimes hear people say that no one ever says that they wish they had spent more time at work, but this is only half true. Sure, making money just for the sake of being rich or working just to climb the corporate ladder is soul-crushing and a waste of a life. But that’s a misguided way to think about your work. My prayer for those of you graduating and entering the workforce—whether that’s tomorrow or in four years—is that you see your work as an opportunity for service.

Truly, the whole address is wonderful and was carefully and lovingly crafted. To read and share it, click here.

What difference would it make if more graduates were reminded that we will all be vulnerable, suffer, and die?

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