Professor Bob Bordone, who has now given a Last Lecture four times, began his talk to the Class of 2017 with words of appreciation: Getting to know them, he said, ‘has been a tremendous gift.” But then he apologized, explaining that he would follow last year’s lecture, “Best Job Ever,” with one with the more sobering title of “Worst Year Ever.”
After months dominated by the presidential election, and by unrest and tragedies around the world and on campus, “I think there’s a real sense that we might be entering, or have entered, an age where fear and anger, and winning and conquest, and violence are replacing empathy and compassion and generosity and peace as the kind of values that we might want to at least aspire to as people and as a nation,” Bordone observed. Drawing on concepts he teaches in the Negotiation Workshop, personal experiences, and some of his favorite poetry, he offered “a framework, of sorts, that I’m calling The Seven Elements of Resiliency in Hard Times.”
Comparing recent political turmoil to an especially challenging negotiation, Bordone spoke about engagement, noting that there are “a lot more ways to respond than just surrendering or fighting back.” He advised his audience to “[dig] in on what your own gifts are, and what your calling might be … because in fact we need people who are activists and resisters, and we need people, for example, who are peacemakers and bridge builders and facilitators.”
Other elements range from gratitude (“The kind of gratitude that builds resilience is the kind that stands on its own two feet, and is not relative”) to sufficiency (“Part of being resilient is drawing on the truth of your worthiness, the truth of your dignity, the truth of your inestimable value”), and from dependency (“resiliency requires community … friends and family who can hold us together in dark times and tough moments”) to faith (“a belief … in something that is bigger than you and than me in this moment in time”) and perspective (“ In really hard times, as tough as it is, we need to … pull back from catastrophizing, to notice more.”).
The seventh element in his framework is hope, and that is the note he ended on. “Class of 2017, you could make this place, our world, beautiful. … I wish you a lifetime of “best year ever.”