Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 2, 1997

Beginning Anew

Commencement: Graduates
told not to fear making
mistakes and to follow their
hearts as well as heads.

Randolph Fillmore
Contributing Writer

The day was cool and breezy and the crowd was warm and appreciative. It was a good day to be a Johns Hopkins graduate.

Thursday morning's university-wide commencement ceremony, marking the end of Hopkins' 121st academic year, did not feature an outside celebrity speaker. Instead, university president William R. Brody took to the podium and provided graduates with plenty to think about. He framed his speech by talking about his daughter Ingrid's impending graduation from Dartmouth College, offering Hopkins graduates the advice he would pass on to her, if she only would ask.

"It is rarely the size or the nature of the mistakes we make, but rather the readiness we demonstrate to learn from them that marks who we are and what we accomplish." He reminded the families, friends and graduates assembled on Gilman Quadrangle that baseball legend Babe Ruth was not only the home run king but also the strikeout king of his day.

Brody urged the graduates to accept and learn from their mistakes while keeping their lives "in balance." He cited the example of Hopkins medical student Ruth Davidon, who took time from her studies to participate in the 1996 Summer Olympics. She didn't win, but she competed, fulfilling a lifelong dream. "Not everything of worth has a dollar sign affixed to it."

At the undergraduate diploma award ceremony that afternoon, G. Timothy Johnson, medical editor for ABC television, continued one of President Brody's other themes--the difficulty of making life choices. In this endeavor, Johnson encouraged the graduates to listen to their hearts as well as their heads through life's unexpected turns.

"Be prepared for the accidents in life," said Johnson. "They may be guideposts."

To illustrate the value of listening to one's heart, Johnson shared three of his experiences. First, he told of his decision to leave the ministry for medical school at the age of 28. Second, while working in a small hospital in Indonesia in 1968, Johnson and his wife listened to their hearts and, "against all logic," adopted an 18-month-old orphaned boy.

"Today, that boy is a 30-year-old toy designer," Johnson told the graduates. "He is an absolute joy, a fine, talented young man."

Johnson's third anecdote recounted how, as a young doctor in 1970, he objected to the American Medical Association's opposition to the nomination of Massachusetts General's John Knowles as U.S. Undersecretary of Health. The two became friends during the next several years, and when a group of which Knowles was a part bought the ABC-TV affiliate in Boston in 1972, Johnson was asked to host a half-hour morning medical show.

"That is how strange and idiosyncratic life can be with its unexpected twists and turns," Johnson told the audience. "That's why I plead with you to listen to your hearts. Treasure learning, but listen to your hearts as well."

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage