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U.S. Chief Justice returns to LaPorte school for commencement address

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Updated: May 25, 2013 5:36PM



U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. returned to his roots at La Lumiere School, the small northern Indiana private academy near LaPorte he graduated from 40 years ago, to give the Friday morning commencement address to this year’s group of 62 graduating seniors.

Security was tight and an impressive number of graduates and undergraduates, their families, school alumni, friends and dignitaries gathered to celebrate the graduation and hear Roberts’ address.

“It’s great to be back,” Roberts began. He first offered two quick tips to the seniors for their first few weeks at college, “because people forget advice but remember tips.”

“During your first week at college say hello or good morning to everyone you pass and you’ll be remembered as a friendly person,” he said.

And, because they will be in new surroundings, students should “give your faith a chance.” Roberts suggested four weeks, “for it’s good to find a place for one hour each week where things are not new.”

Roberts’ overall advice to the seniors was the importance of persistence in pursuing their dreams and goals and not to fear failure or disappointment. Quoting from Calvin Coolidge, Roberts said that, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Roberts called persistence an invaluable trait. “Persistence is entirely in your control,” he said, defining the test of persistence as, “perseverance in the face of disappointment.”

Roberts recited a string of disappointments that Abraham Lincoln faced, from failing general stores to numerous lost elections, and said a measure of Lincoln’s greatness was how he dealt with disappointment and failure and his penchant for persistence.

Quoting Lincoln, Roberts told the audience, “You cannot fail if you are resolutely determined that you will not,” and related how during the Civil War, Lincoln, in the face of a major Union defeat at the battle of Chancellorsville in early May 1863, went on a few weeks later to the Union victory at Gettysburg that marked the beginning of the end for the confederacy.

In closing, Roberts told the graduates, “How you respond will determine the life you lead,” finishing to a standing ovation.

Graduating senior Lucas Tang of Portage was excited to have Roberts give the commencement address.

“It is a really amazing experience to have him speak and give his wisdom,” he said.

Marissa Behnke, a 2010 La Lumiere graduate, admitted that she probably knew more about the 1984 La Lumiere graduate comedian/actor Jim Gaffigan than she knew about the chief justice but was nonetheless pleased to be able to hear Roberts speak.

Marissa’s father, Doug Behnke of LaPorte, did not attend La Lumiere but learned of the school from his fraternity brother, who graduated with Roberts in 1973. “This is pretty impressive, frankly,” Behnke said.

Cassidy Dye of LaPorte, a junior at La Lumiere and sister to graduating senior Cody Dye, called the event incredible. “I’m so excited about it.”

La Lumiere School was founded in 1963 as a traditional college preparatory boarding and day school.



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