Commencement addresses are a dime a dozen, and their shelf life is the time it takes most to reach an adult beverage after the formalities conclude.
But I heard a memorable one this past May, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where the wonderful Julie Andrews stole the day and served up a message the grads and those watching won’t forget.
I was thinking about that speech on Thursday night, after Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, a home grown product of the city’s legendary St. Ignatius High School, slid to avoid a tackle and ended up with a torn ACLS, a season-ending injury that guarantees a long rehab of at least nine months and often longer.
Hoyer was one of the season’s great stories. He’d been a bench warmer for years, a back-up to uber-QB Tom Brady, and a third stringer for the Browns when the season began.
But he got a chance and won two thrilling games, setting the town on fire. Then the slide and the tackle, the limp off, the MRI, the surgery. Now the wait and the rehab.
Hoyer’s Twitter account, @bhoyer8, hasn’t updated since Thursday night, but hope that it does and that it becomes a marker for everyone who gets a glimpse –a taste– of the dream and sees it slip away, if only for a time.
Here is what Julie Andrews had to say this past spring:
“It won’t always be easy. Whatever you embrace, there will be moments of doubt, moments of darkness, moments of adversity. And when adversity strikes, well—I can offer you a little trick for that…Actually, it’s not mine.
“I used to know the great English author, T.H. White. [H]e wrote ‘The Once and Future King,’ [in which] Merlin says the following about adversity to young King Arthur:
“‘The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.
‘There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.’…When adversity hits go out and learn something.”
Andrews continued: “Adversity hit me big-time when I lost my ability to sing due to a botched throat operation. It was devastating for me to lose the very thing that had sustained me my entire life. It was my identity.
“My daughter, Emma, and I had just begun writing a children’s book together, having a particularly low moment one day, bemoaning my fate, and she said, ‘Mum you have simply found a new way of using your voice.’… Since then, we have written 30 books together… Adversity paved the way to a new career for me that I never dreamed of.”
There is always a choice after a devastating setback, and now Hoyer gets to make it. Perhaps he will make it in real time with the world watching via Twitter.
Robert Griffin III is back playing for the Washington Redskins and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls will return this year as well. We are a sports-obsessed nation, but sometimes, when the athletes show that adversity is a common denominator and not uncommonly overcome, that obsession is a good thing.
So, cheers to Brian Hoyer for what he has already done and what he will do. And thanks to Julie Andrews for her candor.