Bill Placher’s 1970 Commencement address lives on as one of the classic speeches delivered on campus. The fact that it was a senior delivering it was even more incredible. Each year when the commencement speech assignments are given to the seniors, as often as not one of the two will visit the Archives for a copy. Monday morning I pulled that speech and read it again, as I have so many times. As I read his words nearly forty years later I still see the hope in them. I also see a challenge. “…But these are challenging times, and even ordinary men sometimes respond to challenges. In the years ahead, in the army, on the campus, in the corporation, many of us may, for reasons we will never quite understand, act more bravely or speak out more honestly, than we had quite intended. We may do some good, and know it will never be enough, but hope to improve a little by living.
Bill ended his speech on that day with the following: “I said I would offer no easy answers, and I trust I’ve kept that promise… perhaps we’ll learn that there are more things to admire in men than to despise; perhaps, knowing it will never be enough to change the world, we will act more honorably than we expected we would; perhaps we’ll have a lot of fun along the way. It wouldn’t be a bad life.”
Indeed, his was a good life, well lived.