Category Archives: Episcopal Divinity School

Purposeful Life


There is a recent surge in the use of the words, “Purposeful life.” There

are many talk shows, a few books with the words in the title and some

people even singing about this. I have a special short story about a

young man who led a purposeful, although shortened too soon, life.

A young man, Jonathan Daniels, valedictorian of Virginia Military Institute,

when he spoke these inspiring words in a 1961 (note how long ago this

transpired!) in his commencement speech”

“I wish you new worlds and the vision to see them. I wish you the decency

and the nobility of which you are capable.”

This man, who has a similar contenance to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a

calming spirit in his appearance, gave his life a short four years later after

this amazing speech.

Jonathan Daniels was then a theology student (after graduating with his

bachelor’s degree, pursuing his lifelong dream of being a preacher.) He

stepped in front of a sheriff who aimed a gun at two black girls to prevent

them from entering a convenience store. Apparently, it was a “whites only”

place to shop. The bullet Daniels took was tragically fatal.

If you wish to see his valedictorian address in its entirety, please check it

out online at

I enjoy the words and music to a simple church song that can be sung

outside of church. It begins like this:

“Simple Gifts”

(Shaker song, written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett)

“‘Tis the gift to be simple,

‘Tis the gift to be free.

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be the valley of love and delight…”

As we go through life, we need to seek the highest level of our abilities and

utilize our given talents. This is the way to serve our higher being, giving back

to our community and the world, if we are able to.

A purposeful life.