In May of 2008, David McCullough,
two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, gave the commencement address for the graduating students of Boston College.
“For many of you of the graduating class,” he said, “the love of learning has already taken hold. For others it often happens later and often by surprise, as history has shown time and again. That’s part of the magic.”
His own love of learning shines through his entire address, and I heartily encourage you to read it. You’ll be the richer for it, I promise.
I have to assume that if you’re reading this post, love of learning ranks fairly high on your list of personal strengths. To you, I say indulge it! And more than that, pass it on.
The Benefits of Lifelong Learning
Consider what lifelong learning does for us. Learning guru, Nancy Merz Nordstrom, director of The Elderhostel Institute Network, lists these delicious benefits:
- It helps us fully develop our natural talents.
- It opens our minds through the free exchange of viewpoints and ideas.
- It creates a curious, hungry mind.
- Through the community service aspect of learning, it lets us make the world a better place.
- It helps us adapt to change and can even make change fun.
- It helps us find meaning in our lives.
- Participation in educational programs keeps us involved as active contributors to society, lets us make friends and establish valuable relationships.
- It leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment. (Original article here.)
That’s a lot to gain from exercising a single personal strength!
It’s Not Just About Books
Learning isn’t just about reading, although as Dr. McCollough says in his commencement address, “We’re all what we read to a very considerable degree.” And he encourages you to read widely.
Nevertheless, as Scott Young mentions in his excellent and helpful article “15 Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning,” Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
Learning is about exploring the world, expanding your interests, and about developing your skills and talents. It’s about trying new things and meeting new people. Through all of our learning activities, says Nordstom, “we expand our awareness, embrace self-fulfillment, and truly create an exciting multi-dimensional life. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Pass It On
Why not share the joy? Teach somebody else how to do something that you love. Start a blog. Teach an enrichment class at your community college. Talk about ideas with your friends. Find a book club or a fun workshop at your local library or on meetup.com. Or start one of your own. Over dinner, ask your family members what interesting things they learned today.
Statistics released by the U.S. Education Department in 2009 show that “some 32 million U.S. adults lack basic prose literacy skill. That means they can’t read a newspaper or the instructions on a bottle of pills.” Consider finding a local literacy group and teaching someone else to read or to improve his or her reading skills.
Most of all, let the children around you see your love of learning. Show them what fun it is; invite them to share in it with you. It’s one of the greatest gifts that you could ever give.