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Just Because

Just Because

By Steven Boyd Saum

Illustration by David Plunkert
Justice in the past and the present—and for future generations. Plus meditations on eclipses, rockabilly, and laughter.

Because we are here, at this university, we often think in terms of the intersection of past and future: imparting knowledge and wisdom and lessons learned, with an ear toward shaping the conversations that we’re having as a society or should be having, with an eye toward the problems that afflict us—especially the most vulnerable among us—and the dangers looming on the horizon.

Because perhaps if history doesn’t repeat itself, it does rhyme, to coin a phrase.

Because when we talk about making the world more just, at the same time we aspire to make this world more humane and sustainable, too.

Because the students who go forth from this place take with them hope and possibility to found enterprises, shape law and policy, invent machines, educate children, make art that speaks to both the damage done and what good might be, and to live a life of faith and heal this broken world.

Because in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine kids had the courage to go to Central High 60 years ago even though thousands more didn’t want them to because of the color of their skin, and why does a story about racial hatred feel startlingly timely? Courage matters, and as we went to press, Marty Sammon ’56, MBA ’63, who was also there—and showed courage when it was needed—passed away.

Because telling people’s stories sometimes takes a close examination of the slow-turning wheels of policy and societal shifts, and sometimes it means we need to honor those lost in sudden conflagration.

Because a few weeks ago the Moon eclipsed the sun over America coast to coast, and that’s all about millennia of cycles and alignments, isn’t it? And the last time this happened for many of us was in 1979—and if you were alive at that time, what were your hopes and dreams and fears for the world? And what are they now, imagining the next time this phenom darkens the skies over this broad swath of our common home, in the year 2045?

Because big wheels turn: and that year will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Second World War when, thanks to the sacrifice of many and after the deaths and suffering of tens of millions, the Nazi scourge was defeated—though also atomic weapons were first used on human beings.

Because there are some cycles we want to break.

Because of the poetry of our lives, sing the beauty of each new day, honor the complexity of the world and speak with a clarity of purpose.

Because “Just Because” is a rollicking rockabilly tune written many years ago by the Shelton Brothers and recorded by many crooners, including Elvis, and some years back by Jorma Kaukonen ’64—and coincidentally Jorma and his band of the time Jefferson Airplane played Monterey Pop 50 years ago to kick off the Summer of Love, so you see how this all connects?

Because even if the connections are tenuous or imagined, there’s this: Humor and whimsy matter, too, so let’s also do as a good friend of this magazine, writer Brian Doyle, often implored: Be tender and laugh.

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