The Last Lecture

It is a bittersweet feeling to put pen to paper and write this, but my time in Georgia comes to an end this week as I move Chicago for a new teaching position. At the end of every semester, I deliver a final lecture to my students. Today, I give you my last post.

Tradition dictates I begin my closing remarks with my favorite poem by Wendell Berry, which ends:

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

I could write a novel on what this Southern poet’s musings mean to me. However, there are two kernels of wisdom Wendell Berry offers which all of us involved in law, politics, and policy, or appointed with the public trust, should give some reflection.

Strive to make the right decisions and be confident in them. All the while, remain open to new ideas— especially from the voiceless and marginalized—that might challenge old conclusions. Confessions of error should not constitute a sign of weakness or a lack of commitment to principle. Politicians, lawyers, and pundits are too quick to cast aspersions on those who dare to have a genuine change of heart.

Practice resurrection.

Cherish opportunities for education and institutions of learning. Embrace diverse viewpoints even if they don’t persuade you. Be weary of those who’d impede the free marketplace of ideas and reject those in power who would neuter academic freedom when it offends their sensibilities. Confirmation bias, an education does not make.

Make more tracks than necessary.

A few years ago, I came to know many of you through social media. Not long after I made my opinions about Georgia law known, Charlie Harper asked me to join the ranks of PeachPundit. I am forever grateful for that opportunity—and the chance to be part of GeorgiaPol in its infancy. Through my writing here and elsewhere, I wanted to help give voice to a community that has been marginalized and ignored too often by those in power. The LGBT community is of no single mind, but I can only pray that I served my brothers and sisters well.

The friendships I’ve forged with my colleagues here, statehouse journalists, legislators, students, and members of the community have immeasurably enriched my life. Together, you have made me a smarter academic critic and, most importantly, a better man.

Until we meet again…

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