Reflection | Finding inspiration in a complicated and flawed world

At first his voice seemed as if it was coming from a lonely place in a wilderness, far from the festivities of the day.  

But as guest speaker Jeff Bleich addressed the PHS Class of 2022, their families, and the larger Piedmont community during the graduation ceremony Thursday at Witter Field, his message, delivered in the smooth cadences of a diplomat, brought an attentive stillness to the audience.

It was clear to see there was something deeply resonant in his words.

Piedmonters may know Jeff as a big-time San Francisco law firm partner. They might also be aware of his parallel distinguished political career, serving as Special Assistant to President Obama, and later as U.S. Ambassador to Australia, among other roles.

As he spoke Thursday, Jeff wove a tale that wound in and out of his own career, finally landing on something that, although unsaid until that moment, was unquestionably casting a shadow that loomed in the background of that hot, cloudless day.  

What happens when we put careerism above social good? What happens when governance becomes about holding power and drawing lines between us? What happens to us when this kind of unraveling goes unchallenged? What did Buffalo and Uvalde mean?

It was a message focused on rejuvenating an idealism and pragmatism of selflessness and hope, and it couldn’t have been a better note to place in the eager hands of the Class of 2022 as they go out to reshape a flawed world. Jeff reminded us all that inspiration is still alive and kicking.

David E. Thigpen is the creator and director of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate journalism program, an Exedra advisor, and the proud parent of a PHS class of 2022 graduate.

3 thoughts on “Reflection | Finding inspiration in a complicated and flawed world

  1. I agree. The message was powerful and perfectly attuned to the nature of the celebration while facing the truth of the lack of courage of so many of our country’s leaders. I know anytime I have both laughed and cried that it has been a good speech/movie/book/show/etc.

  2. Very well said, Dave. I enjoyed Mr. Bleich’s speech and it also resonated with me and how I’m feeling currently about the world. It’s indeed a flawed world, maybe even more flawed than when we found it, however, I do have hope that good is greater in this world.

  3. Sad to me that there is never a moment for levity and celebration without politicking. This was a moment for joy and encouragement- the choice to discuss school shootings and gun control was odd. I wonder if it has anything to do with the recent focus of the school board on gun safety. Surely there was a better forum to push this point than graduation. The day was beautiful- and a hopeful message to the grads would have made it even better.

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