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Chief Justice John Roberts Bucks Tradition In Graduation Speech


Chief Justice John Roberts had some advice for ninth graders recently that we could all stand to hear. The advice came a few weeks ago in a graduation speech at Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire. His son was among the graduates. The speech was not publicized ahead of time, but now the YouTube video is getting attention in part because of what Roberts did not say.


The Chief Justice bucked the conventions of commencement speeches, refusing to wish the young graduates good luck.


JOHN ROBERTS: From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don't take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.

SIEGEL: It's not every junior high that has a commencement speaker at all, let alone the chief justice of the United States. But Cardigan isn't any junior high. It's an expensive private boarding school, and Roberts addressed that issue as well.


ROBERTS: Over the last couple of years, I've gotten to know many of you young men pretty well. And I know you are good guys. But you are also privileged young men. And if you weren't privileged when you came here, you're privileged now because you have been here. My advice is don't act like it. When you get to your new school, walk up and introduce yourself to the person who is raking the leaves, shoveling the snow or emptying the trash. Learn their name, and call them by their name during your time at the school. Another piece of advice - when you pass by people you don't recognize on the walks, smile, look them in the eye, and say hello. The worst thing that will happen is that you will become known as the young man who smiles and says hello.


ROBERTS: And that is not a bad thing to start with.

SHAPIRO: Speaking at his son's junior high graduation, Chief Justice John Roberts closed by reading the lyrics to Bob Dylan's song "Forever Young."


ROBERTS: May your hands always be busy. May your feet always be swift. May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift. May your heart always be joyful. May your song always be sung. And may you stay forever young. Thank you.


BOB DYLAN: (Singing) Forever young... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.