We’ve just finished another “Commencement” season. Students from Kindergarten to Post Graduate School donned caps and gowns for graduation exercises.
They listened to speeches by persons from all walks of life about how to succeed, how to live, and how to make the most of their education and opportunities. They were reminded of the challenges and needs before them. They were encouraged to make a difference, to bring something new, to create a world better than the one in which they find themselves.
I’m giving a similar kind of speech in a few weeks. As I thought about what to say, I remembered this odd bit of “historical trivia.” I think it offers a needed lesson.
When the West was being settled, the major means of transportation was the stagecoach. The stagecoach had three different kinds of tickets – first class, second class, and third class. If you had a first–class ticket, that meant you could remain seated during the entire trip no matter what happened. You were exempt from having to put forth any kind of effort. If the stagecoach got stuck in the mud, had trouble making it up a steep hill, or even if a wheel fell off, you could remain seated—you had a first–class ticket.
If you had a second-class ticket, you also could remain seated – until there was a problem. Then second-class ticket holders would have to get off until it was resolved. You could stand off to the side and watch as other people worked. You didn’t have to do anything or get your hands dirty. You weren’t allowed to stay on board.
If you had a third-class ticket, you’d definitely have to get off if there was a problem. Why? Because it was your responsibility to help solve it. You had to get out and push or help lift or help fix a broken wheel; whatever was needed because you only had a third-class ticket.
Many persons live as if they have “first or second-class tickets.” They view life from the perspective of privilege and entitlement. The assume it’s the job of someone else to “fix the problem;” resolve the issue or do the necessary work. They assume they can just stand and watch (and often criticize). They don’t have to get their hands “dirty” or take the risk of getting involved.
Actor and environmental activist Pierce Brosnan gave the address to the 2019 graduating class at Dickinson College. He challenged them with these words.
“As someone who has saved the world a few times, or at least played someone who has,” (referring to his role as James Bond); I’d like to offer you a bit of advice…Our world doesn’t need a Bond. Our world doesn’t need a lone hero, out to solve things solo. We need people from different disciplines and walks of life who are willing to work together, who can rely on one another, who can push forward, united. The world doesn’t need a hero with a license to kill. We need people who can create. Our world needs you.”
Maybe you’re in this 2019 class of graduates—the world needs your enthusiasm and energy. Maybe your graduations are yet to come—the world needs your dreams and your hope. Maybe your graduations are well in the past—the world needs your wisdom and experience. The world needs all of us. It needs us to tear down walls and barriers and create bridges of relationship and understanding. It needs us to get beyond fear, suspicion and intolerance and embrace a vision that’s global in scope and local in implementation.
The world needs us to speak up loudly for those whose voices are being silenced, to protect those who are being marginalized and to confront those who substitute lies for truth. The world needs us to have the courage to resist evil, the compassion to feel other’s pain and the commitment to make the necessary changes for the common good of all.
It’s not optional. No one is exempt. No one does it alone. In this ride of life, we all hold a “third-class ticket.”
View Pierce Brosnan’s Speech to Dickinson College’s 2019 graduating class: