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Associated Press
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. gives the commencement address at La Lumiere School near LaPorte.

Chief justice encourages diligence to alma mater

– U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday told graduates of the northern Indiana Catholic boarding school he graduated from 40 years ago that persistence is the most essential quality to success and is the only trait each person controls when facing life’s challenges.

“How you respond will determine what kind of life you will lead,” he told the 62 graduates of La Lumiere School just north of LaPorte, about 25 miles west of South Bend.

He read a quote from President Calvin Coolidge to the more than 1,100 people in attendance about how persistence is more important than talent, genius or education, because many people with those traits fail.

“The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race,” he quoted Coolidge as saying.

Roberts said Abraham Lincoln may be the best example of that, saying the nation’s 16th president faced numerous failures, including going bankrupt running a general store, losing numerous elections, being rejected as a vice presidential candidate and losing his only case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roberts told of Lincoln giving advice to a friend’s son who failed to get into a college he wanted to attend, encouraging him in a letter: “You cannot fail if you resolutely determine that you will not.” Roberts said Lincoln succeeded because he followed that advice.

Roberts, nominated to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist by President George W. Bush in 2005, told the graduates he didn’t think they would remember the advice he offered that day, but he did urge them to retain two tips.

The first was that at their first week of college they say “hello” or “good morning” to everybody they pass, saying they will quickly gain a reputation as the friendly new student.

Roberts, a Roman Catholic, told the students that his second piece of advice is to give their faith a chance, saying they should resolve to go to a place of worship their first four weeks at college.

“At a time in your life when so much is new, and how you respond to different choices will affect so much of your future, you may find it is good to be in a place one hour a week where things are not new, but familiar,” he said.