For The Cobb County Class Of 2024, Find Your Purpose

A graduation mortar-board cap, and a note saying "Job"

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

There’s an old joke where a member of one political party considers how effective the head of the executive branch, who is part of the opposition party, can be. “My mom said in America, anyone can grow up to be president,” the line goes. “Now I believe them.”

You’re told to follow your dreams, or to pursue your passion, by so many graduation speakers. And some might even encourage you to try to be a future president of the United States of America. But here’s a better idea: Find your purpose.

Let’s say your goal is to be the President of the USA, and you achieve it. What then? Others are pushed to become a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, a business CEO, or even a teacher. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what was it all for? If your goal was a profession, then your achievement is a title. Perhaps that’s why you’ll find people in those positions who seem lost.

A better mission might be to tackle a societal problem. I had a friend in college, for example, who decided to make it his life’s mission to find a cure for AIDS. Another student at our college had died of the disease, which perhaps served as the motivation for my friend’s purpose. In the process, he became a great researcher in that field. Having that mission helped him get through those tough biology and chemistry classes.

I give the same advice to my students who wish to go on to law school, or graduate school in political science. What’s your real goal, I ask them. Find something that you want to go through a brick wall for. Think of how your hard work and efforts are going to benefit someone else. That will help you more than anything (along with studying) when you are facing your comprehensive exams, or writing your dissertation, or defending it, or getting through 1L, or passing the bar, I tell them.

In fact, I took one of my students to meet C. Frederick Gray, a legendary civil rights attorney. He told us of his motto that he adopted at the Alabama Bar Association, which was “lawyers render services.” The guy who argued landmark cases before the Supreme Court in the 1960s is still working, defending those in danger of having the lights turned out at their homes due to poverty. For Gray, now featured in the African-American Museum in Washington, D.C., it’s still all about helping people, and not being a big name.

That was a strong motivator. I thought of teachers who helped me get through school, when I probably couldn’t have done it on my own. I would be that kind of educator, to get others excited and passionate about the material, the subject, and even the service, just as others were for me.

I got that title of “find your purpose” in a graduation speech from Zachary Taylor III, son of a LaGrange College business professor years ago, who had to lead North Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I don’t think that finding your purpose means avoiding any passion or dream. You should dream and have passions, which can give you some pretty great ideas. Just make sure whatever those passions and dreams don’t lead you to something that is very different from your purpose. And if your purpose is tied to helping others, and making this world a better place, so much the better.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His Twitter account is JohnTures2.