This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, June 24, 1998

June 24, 1998 - Commencement Address: Intertia

I have never been asked to give a high school (or college, or, for that matter, an elementary school) commencement address. For all I know, I never will be.

But just in case, I have prepared the following remarks.

Dear Graduating Class of [fill in the blank],

The whole idea of historical lessons probably sounds tedious to you right now. The golden days of summer beckon. School is ended.

But before you go, let me tell you about one of history's lessons I find inspiring.

By the age of 19, an Englishman named Isaac Newton came up with something called the Law of Inertia. It had two parts. The first part was that an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

There's no surprise there. Picture yourself on the couch, watching TV. Inertia.

But the second part was completely contrary to common sense. He said that an object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Ridiculous! Push a ball downhill, and the one thing we can be sure of is that it stops. How long that takes may vary with the height of the hill, but the ball stops. Always.

What kind of madman was this guy?

But he wasn't. The genius of Newton was that he said things didn't stop all by themselves. Something stopped them. That thing, that force, was friction, an independent force operating against motion.

The whole understanding of the human race changed at that moment.

The key lesson I want to convey to you today is that when your mind is engaged, when you're alive and alert and paying attention, when you are learning (quite apart from what other people may think they are teaching) you are an object in motion. You're moving. And you're going to keep moving.

Engagement with life is a force that endures.

But you may also find that sometimes that marvelous sense of growth and learning suddenly seems to give out. You stop.

Trust me. This will happen.

What you need to hear now, what you need to remember for later, is that this doesn't necessarily mean that YOU have pooped out. It may mean that something outside of you, an independent force, has blocked you. When you get stymied in life, maybe it's not you.

It's friction.

It may also be useful to remember that more profoundly than ever, our society urgently requires your energy, your insight, your tolerance, your kindness, your eventual wisdom. Never doubt it.

Meanwhile, you have an incomparable opportunity to think deeper and wider, to feel farther, than any generation before you. And you only have to do one thing.


You might also talk to each other about what you've read. Then read some more.

I believe in you. Even when your parents forget to say it, or honestly don't know how to say it, know in your bones that all of us believe in you.

It's the whole secret of the human race.

You are alive. You are objects in motion. Fight the friction.

Meanwhile, right here in the summer of 1998, the Douglas Public Library District is again offering a Young Adult Reading Program. It runs from June 15th through July 27th. We're encouraging you to read 6 books in 6 weeks.

Do that, and we'll put your name in a drawing for free movie tickets and videos rentals. (Is this ironic, or what?)

You can also write book reviews, some of which will be published in the local paper. There are more prizes.

Check all this out at our web site.

I realize that you may have other things on your mind. But humor us. Swing by the library, sign up, read some stuff.

You know what? We'd be pleased to see you.

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