Find your passion: Grads challenged at Longwood commencement

Published 10:13 am Sunday, May 21, 2023

What are you passionate about, John Feinstein asked students at the 184th Longwood commencement on Saturday, May 20. What drives you? What motivates you? The longtime national sportswriter, who’s written 44 books and covered sports for everyone from the Washington Post to the Sporting News, encouraged students to think about their goals and dreams when mapping out the next chapter in their lives. 

He quoted the legendary actor Jack Palance in the movie City Slickers, encouraging students to “find one thing, one thing you’re truly passionate about, one thing that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.”

184th commencementFeinstein acknowledged that with luck many will find that in their families. However, he stated that the graduates need a professional challenge of some kind. He encouraged them not to focus on a job where they can advance and get paid well but find something that inspires them. 

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He also told the story of Dean Smith who coached at the University of North Carolina for 36 years. Moving down to the South in 1958 he was part of a group that helped breach the color line of segregation. Feinstein heard the story from a pastor about how Smith went into a segregated restaurant with a Black friend and dared the staff not to serve them.

“Nobody knew that story until 1981, 23 years later,” said ​​Feinstein. “Nowadays somebody does something good in any walk of life you know about it five minutes later.”

184th commencementWhen Feinstein asked Smith about that night, Smith didn’t want anyone to know what he did saying, “You should never be proud of doing the right thing in life, you should just do the right thing.”

Feinstein concluded with a Bible verse, reading from Luke 12:48, which speaks about how to whom much is given, much will be required. And yet, if they stick with the path, they will do great things. 

Longwood commencement includes challenges

Ethan Lewter, class president of the class of 2023, also gave his fellow graduates words of encouragement at the Longwood commencement, before they departed from this chapter of their lives. He quoted Vincent VanGough saying, “Great things are not by impulse but by a series of small things brought together and great things are not something accidental but most certainly be willed.”

Lewter compared this to growing up playing with building blocks, learning how to bring things together and elevate. 

184th commencement“Now while we didn’t see it that way then, we can hopefully recognize now that there have been many building blocks both large and small that have led us to become the people that we are today,” he said.

He compared these blocks of life to moments in high school that shaped who they became and more recent ones in college like the COVID-19 pandemic that threaten to knock down everything they tried to build. Now, the class has a blue and white Longwood block that they can use to build a solid foundation from for the rest of their lives. 

This marked the 184th Longwood commencement.