Vocation and Commencement Addresses

Vocation and Commencement Addresses May 20, 2016

Mollie Hemingway has a great piece in the Federalist about vocation as a theme in commencement addresses.  So many of them miss the point of what vocation actually is.  But she corrects that, discussing three high-profile commencement speeches in light of the doctrine of vocation.  She even quotes yours truly.

From Mollie Hemingway,  What Sheryl Sandberg, Jim Gaffigan, And Clarence Thomas Tell Us About Relationships, The Federalist:

“Spot the odd line in this great story,” a journalist friend wrote to me, from The Boston Globe’s, “Father’s labor of love puts 5 kids through Boston College:”

For the last 15 years of his long working life, Vautour, 62, has performed his painstaking rounds on the graveyard shift at Robsham Theater as if they were a calling. And, in a sense, they are.

Next month, his youngest child will collect her nursing degree from BC, and Vautour’s triumph will be complete: The night-shift custodian will have put all five of his children — Amy, John, Michael, Thomas, and Alicia — through Boston College.

The story about Boston College custodian Fred Vautour is really great, so I hate to quibble. But “as if they were a calling”? As if? Fatherhood — and all the sacrifices and hard work it entails — must be one of life’s most noble callings. Vautour lived out his vocation as father as he “sponged down sinks, scrubbed toilets, and polished mirrors.”

Yet lives of service are not considered callings in our culture. In this case it’s a father whose household management is dismissed as not quite a calling. Typically we see such dismissiveness aimed at women who stay home to raise their children. We also see it aimed at women who make different decisions, in service to their family or prospective families, about their education, their career path, and even their work-life balance in a given job. These women — whose different choices are responsible for the so-called “pay gap” — are hidden from our media’s corporatist discussions of women at work.

That is what makes three of this year’s commencement addresses to college graduates so interesting.

[Keep reading. . .]

She goes on to discuss commencement addresses by women-in-the-workplace author Sheryl Sandberg, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and comedian Jim Gaffigan and his wife writer Jeannie Gaffigan.

HT:  Adam Hensley

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