The prolific writer of legal thrillers, John Grisham carried the writing thread through a good portion of his commencement speech today at UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan Stadium.
Writing, he said, is like life itself. In life, those with voice are listened to; those who simply make noise are not.
"For your ideas to be accepted, for your arguments to be believed, for your work to be admired, you must find a voice," he told graduates of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Grisham is a Mississippian but the Tar Heel state, and its flagship university, are rapidly taking his life over.
His daughter, Shea, graduated from UNC-CH two years ago and now teaches in Raleigh. And Grisham's wife, Renee, graduated today as well, finally finishing work on her English degree that began 30 years ago and was interrupted when the couple got married.
Grisham's address was witty and wry, laced with punch lines that kept the audience laughing on a sun-lit but breezy day in Chapel Hill.
The university awarded four honorary degrees during today's ceremonies. The recipients included Paul Rizzo, former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School; Gene Roberts, a legendary newspaper reporter and editor whose first job was with the Goldsboro News-Argus, where he covered farming; Fred Robinson, an emeritus English professor at Yale University who received his doctorate in English and comparative linguistics from UNC-CH in 1961; and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. Timmons-Goodson received her bachelor's and law degrees from UNC-CH.
The university sent 5,630 graduates into the world today.