4                  COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS OF 
 6                     AT BOSTON COLLEGE 
21                   Monday, May 19, 1997 
23                      Boston College 
24                        Conte Forum 
25               Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 
 1                                       (10:35 a.m.) 
 2                     ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO:  Thank 
 3      you, Father Neenan, Father Lahey, thank you for 
 4      inviting me here today, your eminence, honored 
 5      guests, and mostly to the graduates.  I 
 6      congratulate you, each one of you, for what you 
 7      have accomplished at this very great 
 8      university.  I'm very, very honored to share 
 9      this time with you and with your families. 
10                      I have had an opportunity to 
11      meet students this morning who impressed me 
12      with their realism, but touched me by their 
13      idealism.  They represent what this great 
14      university is all about:  service and reaching 
15      across lines to come together to serve all of 
16      human kind. 
17                      From this wonderful institution 
18      you will draw strength and wisdom, 
19      understanding and faith that will be with you 
20      all the days of your life.  Lessons learned 
21      here will guide you in success and failure and 
22      joy and sorrow.  You need them, for the world 
23      will change before your very eyes. 
24                      I think back to this day 37 
25      years ago when I graduated from college.  I 
 1      never dreamed I would see all that I have seen 
 2      and done all that I have done. 
 3                      The challenges you and the 
 4      world will face will test all that you have 
 5      learned here.  But there will be wonderful 
 6      opportunities to put to work the great 
 7      knowledge that you have gained here and the 
 8      great understanding. 
 9                      Now having talked with some of 
10      your colleagues this morning, this may not be 
11      so.  But in case some of you may turn from the 
12      challenges of these next years saying, I'm just 
13      going to throw up my hands; the problems of the 
14      world are too complicated; it's too big; no one 
15      person can make a difference; I'm not even 
16      going to try; I'm not even going to get 
17      involved -- let me just tell you this:  Each 
18      one of us can make a difference. 
19                      For four years now I have 
20      traveled across this country and seen senior 
21      partners in a law firm who tutor a young child 
22      at risk.  I've seen senior citizens work in a 
23      parent patrol to ensure the safety of their 
24      neighborhood.  I've seen a homemaker with seven 
25      children still volunteer for duties outside the 
 1      home.  Every one of us can make a difference. 
 2                      How do we do it?  We don't let 
 3      the bigness of the world overwhelm us.  We take 
 4      it one step at a time.  Say what you believe is 
 5      right and then stick with it.  If you know 
 6      you're right, don't let polls or criticism turn 
 7      you away.  When you lose or when you err, know 
 8      that that happens, pick yourself up, dust 
 9      yourself off and move ahead.  Don't be afraid 
10      to try. 
11                      I learned a valuable lesson.  I 
12      ran for office in 1972.  I tried to do and say 
13      what I believed to be right.  I lost the 
14      election.  But as someone told me, just keep on 
15      doing and saying what you believe to be right. 
16      If you wake up the next morning, you'll feel 
17      good about yourself.  But if you pussy foot, 
18      equivocate, and talk out of both sides of your 
19      mouth and say what you think is popular, you'll 
20      wake up the next morning feeling miserable. 
21                      Well, I didn't feel very good 
22      the next morning because I had lost the 
23      election, but then somebody put a biography of 
24      Abraham Lincoln on my bedside table.  It was 
25      wonderful to learn that Lincoln lost his first 
 1      election.  It helps to know how to lose and to 
 2      know it's not the end of the world. 
 3                      Learn to do things the right 
 4      way and learn never to be intimidated by the 
 5      complexity of it. 
 6                      When I was eight years old, we 
 7      lived in a little wooden house.  We had four 
 8      children in the family a year apart.  We were 
 9      outgrowing the house.  My father did not have 
10      money enough to hire a contractor to build the 
11      house. 
12                      One day mother announced she 
13      was going to build a house.  And we said, What 
14      do you know about building a house?  She said, 
15      I'm going to learn.  She went to the brick 
16      mason.  She went to the electrician.  She went 
17      to the plumber.  She talked to them about how 
18      to build a house. 
19                      She came home and over the next 
20      two years she dug the foundation with her own 
21      hands with a pick and shovel, laid the block, 
22      put in the wiring and plumbing.  My father 
23      would help her with the beams when he came home 
24      from work at night. 
25                      She and I lived in that house 
 1      just before she died, just before I came to 
 2      Washington.  And that house was a symbol to me 
 3      that you can do anything you really want to if 
 4      you work hard enough at it and if it's the 
 5      right thing to do. 
 6                      But that house taught me 
 7      another lesson.  In August of 1992, Hurricane 
 8      Andrew hit our neighborhood.  About three 
 9      o'clock in the morning, winds began to howl, an 
10      unearthly noise unlike anything I've ever 
11      heard.  Trees began to crack around the house. 
12                     My mother got out.  She was very 
13      old and frail.  She sat in her chair, folded 
14      her hands, and she was totally unafraid, for 
15      she knew how she had build that house.  She 
16      build it the right way.  She put in good 
17      materials.  She didn't cut corners. 
18                      When we went out after the 
19      hurricane had passed, all the surrounding area 
20      looked like a World War I battlefield, but the 
21      house had only lost a shingle and some screens. 
22                      Build your life the right way 
23      and don't be intimidated by the complexity, but 
24      don't forget to laugh at yourself and don't 
25      forget to have fun. 
 1                      I made a promise to myself the 
 2      day I graduated from law school that I would 
 3      never do anything that I didn't enjoy doing. 
 4      There have been some days that I can perhaps do 
 5      without, but most mornings I wake up with an 
 6      eagerness to go to work, to do the best I can. 
 7      I hope the same for you. 
 8                      What advice can I give you?  I 
 9      think the Jesuits give the best advice in their 
10      commitment to serve others.  Figure out what 
11      you can do for the rest of your life to serve 
12      others. 
13                      It may be the bank president 
14      who runs the most user-friendly, thoughtful, 
15      confident banking service available for the 
16      people he serves, but that bank president can 
17      also tutor a child at risk. 
18                      It may be an insurance salesman 
19      who remembers a coach of his little league team 
20      and goes out and coaches three days a week to 
21      make sure that kids have opportunities. 
22                      It may be an 84-year-old man, 
23      such as one I met, who stood up one day and 
24      said, Do you know what I do three mornings a 
25      week for three hours each morning?  And I said, 
 1      No, sir.  And he said, You know how old I am? 
 2      I said, No.  He said, I'm 84 and I volunteer as 
 3      a teacher's aide in the first grade class.  And 
 4      the teacher stood up and she said, He 
 5      volunteers for my class.  The gifted kids can't 
 6      wait for their time with him because he 
 7      broadens their horizons far beyond what I can 
 8      do.  And the kids with learning disabilities 
 9      think he has the patience of Job. 
10                      Whether you're eight or 84, 
11      every single one of us can make a difference. 
12      You can do work in your church.  You can 
13      develop pro bono programs in your law firm.  As 
14      you go looking for jobs, find out just what 
15      they do to permit public service, community 
16      service, and participate. 
17                      But then there is public 
18      service: service to your country, service to 
19      the state, service to the cities.  Some people 
20      say, Well, government doesn't work very well; 
21      it seems too contentious. 
22                      These last four years have been 
23      the most wonderful opportunity that anybody 
24      could have to serve.  Yes, it is true that you 
25      get cussed at, fussed at, and figuratively 
 1      beaten around the ears very regularly.  But 
 2      there is nothing more rewarding than public 
 3      service. 
 4                      Last year I went with the 
 5      President to South Carolina to dedicate a new 
 6      church that had been built in the place of a 
 7      church that had been burned in the rash of 
 8      church arsons.  It was a moving moment.  But as 
 9      we finished, a lady broke through the lines, 
10      ran up to me and gave me a big hug and said, 
11      Janet, I haven't seen you since Miami when you 
12      were state attorney and you used to get my 
13      child support.  And she said, And these are the 
14      two guys you got me child support for.  And two 
15      grown, young men smiled down at me.  You 
16      remember those moments as long as you remember 
17      anything. 
18                      You remember the victim coming 
19      up to you ten years later and saying, You 
20      prosecuted my case.  You helped me.  You helped 
21      make me whole again.  There is nothing more 
22      rewarding than public service. 
23                      And even the man who stopped me 
24      and said, Thank you.  And I said, For what?  He 
25      said, For arresting me and getting me into drug 
 1      treatment.  He said, You believed in me, and 
 2      you got me into treatment.  I've been clean for 
 3      two years.  I've got my family back.  I've got 
 4      a job back.  That's what public service is all 
 5      about. 
 6                      Sometimes you will fail.  But 
 7      if you move ahead, figuring out how you can use 
 8      the law and government to serve the people in 
 9      this great democracy, you may not make much 
10      money, but the rewards are far greater than any 
11      dollar can ever provide you. 
12                      As you deal in the concept of 
13      service, I urge you to focus on community. 
14      Even if you go to Washington, never forget the 
15      community in which you live or from where you 
16      came, because too many communities of this 
17      nation have become afraid and unraveled. 
18                      It is up to all of us to 
19      re-weave the fabric of community around our 
20      children, around the elderly, around neighbors 
21      who for too long have not talked with each 
22      other.  We need to bring new skills to this, 
23      problem-solving skills. 
24                      Instead of wringing our hands 
25      and saying, We can't do anything about crime in 
 1      this community, we've got to reach out and 
 2      figure out how we work together to solve the 
 3      problem of crime. 
 4                      We've got to learn how to 
 5      communicate with each other and listen to each 
 6      other.  We must make sure that we don't let 
 7      disagreement on one issue close the doors to 
 8      good dialogue on all the other issues that 
 9      beset us. 
10                      And we need to learn how to 
11      resolve our conflicts without harsh words and 
12      help our children resolve their conflicts 
13      without knives and guns and fists. 
14                      Most importantly to the idea of 
15      community and re-weaving the fabric of 
16      community around our families and our 
17      neighborhoods comes the idea of professions 
18      working together. 
19                      I had an incredible seven 
20      minutes about an hour ago talking to the dean 
21      of the nursing school and the educational 
22      school and the college of arts and sciences. 
23                      What this great university has 
24      done in terms of getting professions to come 
25      together to address mutual problems together 
 1      serves as an example for all of this country. 
 2      And as you leave here, take the Boston College 
 3      example with you. 
 4                      When you return to your 
 5      community or go on a new assignment or to a new 
 6      community, find the nurses, find the 
 7      universities, find the police, find the 
 8      teachers who are working together and reinforce 
 9      what they do.  It can make such an incredible 
10      difference.  And as you do that, you can work 
11      together in problem solving. 
12                      One of the biggest problems is 
13      people don't want to get involved in their 
14      communities because they don't want to come 
15      outside.  They don't trust people because they 
16      don't feel safe.  But working with community 
17      policing, community probation, you can make a 
18      safer community. 
19                      Public health specialists can 
20      come together with prosecutors and public 
21      defenders and police officers in addressing the 
22      problem how we treat drug abuse, how we deal 
23      with the problem of domestic violence, how we 
24      provide for prevention programs that work. 
25                      We must address the problem of 
 1      violence in the home together.  For too long 
 2      this nation swept that problem under the rug. 
 3      But unless we end violence in the home, we will 
 4      never end it in the streets and in the schools. 
 5                      Another community problem may 
 6      exist in schools.  You may come to a community 
 7      and the teachers will say, Our class sizes are 
 8      too huge.  We don't have enough computers.  We 
 9      don't have enough teachers who know how to use 
10      computers.  Whatever we're going to do will 
11      cost money. 
12                      Galvanize your business, work 
13      together lobbying the legislature, work with 
14      the city council and the school board, but 
15      never give up trying to give our youngsters an 
16      opportunity to grow. 
17                      As you build community, if you 
18      don't like what's happening in city hall, don't 
19      say, Those are just the politicians.  Go down 
20      there and do something about it.  Go down there 
21      and contribute and make a difference. 
22                      But as you focus on community, 
23      the number one issue I think you must address 
24      in America is how people put children, all of 
25      the children of America first in our lives. 
 1                      We see the problem of youth 
 2      violence and youth victims.  We see drug abuse 
 3      rising with our children.  We see the problem 
 4      of drop-outs. 
 5                     And I, as a prosecutor in Miami, 
 6      had an investigation of a 17 year old that I 
 7      had adjudicated guilty of armed robbery and see 
 8      four points along the way in that child's life 
 9      were we could have intervened and made a 
10      difference and kept him away from crime. 
11                      We've got to make an investment 
12      early on, because the doctors who took me to 
13      the public hospital in Miami to try to figure 
14      out what to do about crack involved infants and 
15      their mothers, they taught me that the first 
16      three years of life was the most important. 
17      This was the time you learned the concept of 
18      reward and punishment and developed a 
19      conscience.  Fifty percent of all learned human 
20      response was learned in the first year of life. 
21                      Well, you may think, That's not 
22      my problem.  But unless we make an investment 
23      beginning at the beginning, we will never be 
24      able to build enough presence 18 years from now 
25      if a child does not understand what punishment 
 1      means or has a conscience. 
 2                      Unless we make an investment in 
 3      children now, the greatest nursing and medical 
 4      institutions in the world will be brought to 
 5      their knees because we failed to provide this 
 6      kind of care up-front. 
 7                      Unless we make an investment in 
 8      children at zero to three, the educational 
 9      institutions of this land will be spending 
10      money on costly remedial programs that they 
11      could be spending on preparing our students for 
12      the 21st century. 
13                      All of us, every American, 
14      whether out of common humanity or in their 
15      self-interest has an interest in making sure 
16      that every child in America has preventive 
17      medical care; that every child in America has 
18      safe, constructive child care from zero to 
19      five; that every child in America has an 
20      education to prepare them for the 21st century; 
21      and every child in America has supervision and 
22      care during those afternoon and evening hours 
23      that are so critical and so important; and that 
24      every child in America has somebody who can 
25      mentor them, look up to them, and take care of 
 1      them. 
 2                      But as you proceed with 
 3      service, do not forget those most dear to you, 
 4      closest to you:  Your own children. 
 5                      I remember my afternoons and 
 6      evenings after school when my mother wasn't 
 7      building the house.  If she were building the 
 8      house, she took us with her and we helped.  If 
 9      she wasn't, she taught us to play baseball. 
10      She punished us and she loved us with all her 
11      heart and soul.  And there is no child care in 
12      the world that could ever be a substitute for 
13      what that lady was in our life. 
14                      Your challenge and my challenge 
15      is to somehow or another put children, all of 
16      the children of America, first in the work 
17      place, so that we can have time to spend with 
18      our children, so that we have time to read to 
19      them at night, so that we have time to 
20      participate with them in school activities. 
21                      How do we do it?  We use the 
22      wonders of modern technology to ensure that 
23      time, through telecommuting, through altered 
24      shifts, with parents' shifts dovetailed school 
25      shifts. 
 1                      We can do so much if we realize 
 2      that if we make this investment in children, we 
 3      can only help ourselves, our businesses, and 
 4      this world. 
 5                      So, as you leave this great 
 6      institution, ask your employers what they're 
 7      going to do to put children first in the work 
 8      place. 
 9                      But as we look at communities 
10      and as we look at children, we need to look to 
11      a new dimension.  We have come to a time when 
12      scientists, priests, lawyers, and businessmen 
13      must come together as never before to try to 
14      understand how we use the tools of science God 
15      has seen fit to put in our hands to uplift 
16      mankind, to increase our knowledge, to increase 
17      our opportunities, to increase our freedom and 
18      to give us vistas and new worlds while 
19      recognizing the risk that new technology 
20      brings. 
21                      The Internet can give us 
22      extraordinary opportunity to communicate and to 
23      learn.  But we must do that without letting it 
24      be a vehicle of instant hate to thousands of 
25      people around the world or a vehicle for those 
 1      who would convey obscenity around the world. 
 2                      How we reaffirm our 
 3      constitution while at the same time doing that 
 4      is going to be something that scientists, 
 5      lawyers, priests, and everyone must come 
 6      together and understand. 
 7                      In biology and chemistry we see 
 8      new opportunities for long lives and better 
 9      health, but we also see new risks that we must 
10      come together and understand.  And scientists 
11      must help us understand these tools. 
12                      There are too many of us that 
13      are not truly literate in that wonderful world 
14      of computer ease.  And how we understand it so 
15      that we can use it as a tool rather than 
16      letting it be our master will be one of our big 
17      challenges. 
18                      The scientists have sometimes 
19      got to think about dollars, too.  Instead of 
20      just building one machine a year that gets 
21      better and better each year so that the other 
22      one becomes obsolete, we have got to figure out 
23      how to use all our machines in a cost effective 
24      way. 
25                      But as we address these issues, 
 1      as we come together to serve, we have something 
 2      else to do.  We have to do all that we can to 
 3      heal the divisions caused by intolerance and 
 4      bigotry, to heal the youth who is angry, to 
 5      welcome the immigrants, and to control the 
 6      racial divide.  We need to speak out against 
 7      prejudice and hate everywhere we find it. 
 8                      Haters are cowards.  And when 
 9      confronted, they usually back down.  But too 
10      often we let them become entrenched before we 
11      speak out because we're too busy, we don't want 
12      to get involved, it's not our problem.  Hate 
13      and the turmoil it causes is everybody's 
14      problem in America.  We must do more to reach 
15      out to each other before hate and bigotry can 
16      begin to come between us. 
17                      Too often we live in our 
18      insular worlds with each other enforcing our 
19      own voluntary racial separation.  We pass each 
20      other on the streets or in the shopping mall, 
21      but we don't connect as individuals. 
22                      With this separation we risk a 
23      lack of understanding of the views and the 
24      perspectives of others.  We risk not learning 
25      of the wonderful racial, ethnic, and cultural 
 1      traditions that have made this nation so 
 2      strong.  We must build on the great diversity 
 3      of this wonderful land. 
 4                      There is another threat to 
 5      tolerance and understanding in this country, 
 6      and this is the growing development of 
 7      anti-immigrant sentiments.  There is a tendency 
 8      to find in new arrivals a new opportunity for 
 9      scapegoating. 
10                      One of my first childhood 
11      memories is of my father describing his arrival 
12      to the United States from Denmark when he was 
13      only twelve.  He spoke only in Danish, not one 
14      word of English.  People teased him about his 
15      funny clothes and funny language.  He never 
16      forgot that.  But four years later, he was the 
17      editor of the high school newspaper, writing 
18      beautiful English.  And he went on to become a 
19      reporter for the Miami Herald for 43 years.  He 
20      always made clear to me that this nation had 
21      done so much for him and his children and that 
22      we must always honor this nation's tradition as 
23      a nation of immigrants. 
24                      We cannot let demagoguery carry 
25      the day.  While immigration is a complex and 
 1      compelling area of public policy, we must not 
 2      let the public debate be ruled by divisiveness 
 3      and fear. 
 4                      Our immigration policy is not 
 5      about fear from those from other countries.  It 
 6      is not about the color of someone's skin or the 
 7      native tongue or cultural tradition or 
 8      accumulated wealth of others.  It is about 
 9      upholding the rule of all in a fair, respectful 
10      way. 
11                      America is an ever changing 
12      place.  We must continue to be a society that 
13      celebrates her differences while embracing our 
14      unique ethnic identity. 
15                      We cannot permit the 
16      narrow-minded to deny that we are a 
17      multi-cultural society, as we have always been. 
18                      Every person is diminished when 
19      any one of us on account of color or accent or 
20      where we were born experiences anything less 
21      than the full measure of his or her dignity and 
22      privilege as a human being. 
23                      So, as you leave this great 
24      university today, I wish you Godspeed.  I wish 
25      for you that you take the commitment of the 
 1      Jesuits to service with you all the days of 
 2      your life.  I hope you will leave here resolved 
 3      to use what you have learned here in the right 
 4      way, to make a difference in this world, to 
 5      serve and to protect all of the people, and to 
 6      never ever give up trying to secure peace, 
 7      liberty, and justice for all.  May God go with 
 8      you. 
 9                     (Applause) 
10                     (Whereupon, at 10:48 a.m., the 
11      speech concluded)