It’s a great pleasure and honor for me, as an alum of St. John’s College — your secular cousin — to address this extraordinary community of learning on this special day. But I should say, in defense of my alma mater — where Jewish scholars, including some former students of Heidegger, who fled Nazi Germany to teach the Great Books to students drawn mostly from Presbyterian and Methodist families — it is true, as the saying goes, that St. John’s College is the place where “Jews teach Protestants how to be good Catholics.” And there were indeed a significant number of conversions around the end of sophomore year, after grappling with The Bible, Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm. Here, by contrast, there is less beating around the bush!

And while I’m not an alum nor a TAC parent (yet!), I am profoundly grateful to the College on behalf of my dear friends who are, and on behalf of the Notre Dame Law School, which is often richly blessed with your wonderful graduates as students, including one of my very favorites, the late Timothy Cantu (’10), who tragically passed away in 2021. And it is a treat for me to see in person some of the students from the dynastic TAC families that I have come to know from afar — Kelseys, Lessards, Haggards, and, of course, Grimms. (Elizabeth Grimm ’98 Forrester and her husband, Michael ’95, are dear friends.)

For the past four years, through their encounter and struggles with works including Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Shakespeare, Dante, Austen, Dostoyevsky — not to mention the complexities of calculus, special relativity theory, electromagnetism, and Zuckerkandl’s Sense of Music (yes, we have that in common also!) — these seniors have developed habits of mind, virtues, and practices that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

They have learned to read, think, and speak with care. They have come to understand that learning requires vulnerability and the willingness to take risks. At TAC they have developed the confidence that comes from grappling with great ideas and hard questions, but also the humility that emerges from this same encounter and struggle. Here at TAC, you have learned that truth, goodness, and beauty are real — not imagined or merely constructed.

But perhaps most importantly, and, of this, more in a moment, they have learned at TAC that learning, growth, and awakening require a community. They cannot be done on your own — they require encounter, cooperation, and struggle with others. Genuine education requires friendship in the richest sense….

From May 11 graduation address at Thomas Aquinas College