While the University of Arkansas family includes people from all over the world, it has roots that are deep in the culture and history of the state of Arkansas.

And as we approach graduation time for both high schools and colleges, we often hear graduation speeches that provide guidance for the days ahead.

A good graduation address might utilize an Arkansas perspective while outlining practical insights and sound guidance.

Such a perspective may appear, on the surface, to apply only to Arkansans, but it would actually be helpful no matter where you live or work.

Having an Arkansas view of the world is good, but it can have some shortcomings.

It is good in that Arkansas is a great place to grow up.

It is bad because when we go somewhere else we sometimes forget that others may not have benefited from an Arkansas experience.

It is good because in practically all of Arkansas you do not have the problems associated with large urban areas.

It is bad in that sometimes we don’t understand the struggles of our fellow Americans who call the city home.

It is good in that we can savor and enjoy good barbeque, fried chicken, fried catfish, and chicken-fried steak.

It is bad because, well, they tell us that fried food is bad for you. In Arkansas the culture may not always support a healthy Mediterranean-like diet such as the lifestyle does in faraway places such as California.

It is good that no matter where you live in Arkansas, you probably know something of outdoor hiking, scenic views, farm life, working on a car, or cultivating the garden.

Working outside can be good for the mind, good for the heart, and good for the soul.

But as we take pride in our Arkansas “outdoorsiness” there is a danger in taking it too far, perhaps even to the point of acting like we have no need for good literature, upscale dining, orchestra music, or other cultural refinements.

Yes, there is indeed a virtue in not being afraid to get our hands dirty, but if we scorn the idea of learning and growing and experiencing new things, life can be out of balance, and maybe even unfulfilling.

An Arkansas perspective is good because we can enjoy the beauty of the hills as well as the attractiveness of crops in the field (such as what you see in the Arkansas delta during the summer).

An Arkansas perspective is good because if we pay attention, we can always have the benefit of a culture and a mindset that values honesty, hard work, and a sense of achievement.

It is good because in Arkansas our perspective is developed by associating with some of the most down-to-earth people on the planet, and being around such people can make one uniquely equipped to face life’s many challenges.

If we do fail as Arkansans, it might be in how we view the world outside of the state.

When we go to other parts of the country and other parts of the world, and assume that everybody should simply adopt the Arkansas way of life, that doesn’t always work.

We would be far better served by appreciating the unique attributes of other places while allowing our Arkansas background to provide a good frame of reference.

So the message to the Arkansas grads of 2020 is quite simple: Go out into the world and pursue your dreams; appreciate life no matter where you go.

But remember where you came from.


Transit and Parking Communications Director David Wilson contributed this article.