Seamus Walsh to the Class of 2013: Act your honest narrative

June 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Ignatian Educator Commencement series continues. Today’s words of wisdom come from Seamus Walsh of Brophy College Preparatory (f. 1928) in Phoenix, AZ.

Act Your Honest Narrative

By Seamus Walsh

June 21, 2013

In her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou wrote, “See, you don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.”

Angelou touches on a couple important themes on this, your day of threshold crossing. First, if we’ve done right by your formation, you should move across this threshold prepared for any dilemma that comes. We’ve done our best to instill in you a sense of what Angelou calls “the right thing.” The right thing may not always present itself simply to us in manifestation, but its premise is simple. Christ’s Golden Rule. The Jesuit notion of cura personalis. When you see the wrong thing — social injustice as poverty, as hatred, as bigotry, as racism, as public policy that augments economic hegemony for the few — we hope you respond with the right thing without having to think about what that is.

Second, I think Angelou also touches on a theme of over-thinking. I was reminded of this recently when my two year old daughter Darby saw an inflatable fish at the pool store and her eyes lit up. “Nemo!” she enthused. So I bought Nemo, filled it with air, put it in the pool, and was shocked when she fearfully refused to ride this apparently intimidating fish:


It took a while for me to cajole her onto Nemo’s back, but when she finally got there, her glee was a realization of a destiny she foresaw in that pool store only hours before.

The analogy here is that sometimes we see our destiny in front of us, and we too are filled with hope and anticipation, but the fear of the unknown terrain, and an over-thinking of the possible negative consequences — or in Darby’s case falling off the intimidating inflatable fish into the water — keeps us from taking the final step forward, or from climbing aboard.

My point: pursue the destiny that you envision bringing you that childish glee, and don’t settle for doing something that might render you secure but unhappy. If you think too much, you can talk yourself out of anything.

An old friend reminds me every time I see him that “life is not a dress rehearsal.” It’s the one chance we have to write, direct, and act out our honest narratives. May you act out the destiny you desire, may you always be for the right thing, and may you do it without thinking.

Seamus Walsh

Seamus Walsh

Seamus Walsh is assistant principal for curriculum and instruction, and English teacher, at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. He can be reached at

For prior entries in The Ignatian Educator commencement series, click here.


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