Message to Graduates: Live Simply

Posted May 28, 2010


Invoking the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau, keynote speaker Ed Begley Jr. urged the Class of 2010 to “live the simplest life you can” as he delivered a plea for environmental activism at Concord Academy’s eighty-seventh Commencement.

“How much do I really need? How much do we all really need?” he asked, introducing a speech that would touch on the BP oil disaster and melting glaciers, as well as several successful efforts to clean up the earth.

The actor, who has earned awards from numerous environmental organizations, is a board member of The Walden Woods Project, which is dedicated to preserving the landscape that inspired Thoreau’s determination to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life,” as the transcendentalist wrote in Walden in 1854.

Begley was pragmatic but insistent: recognizing that this generation cannot live as Thoreau once did, he nonetheless urged his listeners to take some steps toward simplicity. “There comes a point when we need to put the iPhone down, to put the Blackberry down, and go and walk in the woods,” he said. He praised the Concord Academy community for its environmental awareness but added, “I need you to do more.”

Begley was one of the first owners of an electric car, purchased in 1970 (“a golf cart with a windshield wiper and a horn”), and he often rides his bike to Hollywood events, arriving alongside the limos. He said one early call-to-action was in 1969, when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. “I don’t know about you, but I think it’s bad when rivers catch fire,” he said. Begley called the “biggest lie” the claim that clean-up is unaffordable, citing the jobs created by environmental initiatives. Striking a note of optimism, he pointed to successful cleanup efforts in New York’s Hudson River and Santa Monica Bay. “We can do this,” he said.

Begley costars, with his wife, in the reality TV show Living with Ed and has authored Living Like Ed and Ed Begley’s Guide to Sustainable Living. He has appeared in films including Pineapple Express and Batman Forever and on TV shows including St. Elsewhere, Six Feet Under, Arrested Development, The West Wing, The Practice, Boston Legal, and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Preceding Begley’s remarks were speeches by CA Board of Trustees President John Moriarty, Head of School Rick Hardy, Student Head of School Daysha Edewi, and senior class president Daphne Kim. The morning honored the Class of 2010’s eighty graduates, who reside in twenty-six Massachusetts cities and towns, six states, and four foreign countries. It also honored longtime CA traditions: seniors sang a class song that they chose, “Stand By Me,” and received their diplomas in random order. As usual, the last graduate called—a lucky and patient Alexander White of Boston—received a sock stuffed with dollars supplied by members of the senior class.

Click here to see the Commencement 2010 photo gallery.

Invoking the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau, keynote speaker Ed Begley Jr. urged the Class of 2010 to “live the simplest life you can” as he delivered a plea for environmental activism at Concord Academy’s eighty-seventh Commencement.

« Back