“It is never wrong to do the right thing”

This is picked up at Powerline which is from a newly published book of Commencement Addresses by Conservatives. The one that Scott Johnson has reprinted is one given in 2008 by Justice Clarence Thomas. It really is worth your time, but I have selected this passage because it has its own meaning to me:

Take a few minutes today to say thank you to anyone who helped you get here. Then try to live your lives as if you really appreciate their help and the good it has done in your lives. Earn the right to have been helped by the way you live your lives.

Next, remember that life is not easy for any of us. It will probably not be fair, and it certainly is not all about you. The gray hair and wrinkles you see on older people have been earned the hard way, by living and dealing with the challenges of life. When I was a young adult and labored under the delusion of my own omniscience, I thought I knew more than I actually did. That is a function of youth.

With the wisdom that only comes with the passage of years, the older folks warned me presciently and ominously, “Son, you just live long enough and you’ll see.” They were right; oh, so right. Life is humbling and can be hard, very hard. It is a series of decisions, some harder than others, some good and, unfortunately, too many of them bad. It will be up to each of you to make as many good decisions as possible and to limit the bad ones, then to learn from all of them. But I will urge you to resist when those around you insist on making the bad decisions. Being accepted or popular with those doing wrong is an awful Faustian bargain and, as with all Faustian bargains, not worth it. It is never wrong to do the right thing. It may be hard, but never wrong.

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9 Responses to “It is never wrong to do the right thing”

  1. Percy

    Admiral William H. McRaven gives a rather good address here that is well worth watching.

  2. Robert Crew

    One of the great ironies of the human life-cycle, is that we can only truly learn behaviour by observing role models (positive or negative), but that we usually draw the wrong lessons from their example until we can learn from their mistakes the hard way. I generally don’t consider any human to be a fully-formed adult until they have endured a conscious mental-cleansing of discarding negative role models, and strive to become a positive model for others, simply by living their own life to a high moral and ethical standard. It’s one of the reasons I identify as Libertarian – you can’t force anybody to follow your example, they’ll only rebel. All you can do is live your own life, as best you can, and try to provide an example for those few others with the wisdom to heed it.

    There are other ways to express the headline, one of my favourites is Goldwater’s “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! …Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”, but Sergey Brin’s “Don’t Be Evil” is a fantastic rule-of-thumb when presented with the false choice between the lesser of two evils (there is always a “non-evil” choice, if you look hard enough, and seek the right advice).

  3. Robert Crew

    Thank you Percy, that was inspirational speaking at its finest.

  4. Shelley

    I generally don’t consider any human to be a fully-formed adult until they have endured a conscious mental-cleansing of discarding negative role models, and strive to become a positive model for others, simply by living their own life to a high moral and ethical standard.

    I like this sentence, it resonates.

  5. Roger

    It’s one of the reasons I identify as Libertarian – you can’t force anybody to follow your example, they’ll only rebel. All you can do is live your own life, as best you can, and try to provide an example for those few others with the wisdom to heed it.

    This – the imparting of ethos and the formation of conscience – can really only be undertaken effectively by communities, not lone individuals. If any remnant of the old Western culture is to survive the dark age which seems to be coming upon us, it will be because of intentional small scale communities dedicated to preserving and passing on the traditions of thought and life which made the West, much like the Irish monastic communities of the last dark ages did. While I am sympathetic to much in Libertarianism and classical liberalism, particularly on the economic side, this penchant for individualism – its philosophical assumption that the individual is prior to the community – is its weakest point and is why I think it offers little real hope for the future. It is communities that form individuals, not the other way around.

  6. Eyrie

    I see we’ve attracted another goddamn communist.

  7. Eyrie

    Here’s an anthem for all the Cats:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sooZrJ8f4k
    “if we can’t do something smart my friends let’s at least do something right”

  8. Lem

    “You’re all individuals!”
    “We’re all individuals!”
    “I’m not.”
    “Sshh”.

    (Just something to lighten up Roger’s mood)

  9. Roger

    (Just something to lighten up Roger’s mood)

    Why…thank you, Lem.

    But I’d really appreciate someone engaging with my contention that the Libertarian commitment to the philosophical priority of the individual does not square with what we actually observe in human culture… besides Eyrie’s inane invocation of my supposed Communism, that is.

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