2014 Message to Graduates

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Having met several of our graduating students, I want you to know that I am encouraged and very impressed with the youth of today.  I will focus my comments on gratitude, generosity of spirit, and the importance of being the wonderful you that you are.

As I look at you I see beautiful young women and handsome young men; smart, creative, amazing individuals who are emerging into adulthood.  Your parents and all the adults who have cared for you are probably feeling a little shocked today.  As much as this is your graduation, I can assure you that your parents and caregivers still see you as the tiny child they held in their arms when you were born; the toddler who ran to them when you were hurt or anxious; the young boy or girl whom they comforted with bedtime stories, or what you looked like when they stood at your bedroom door watching you sleep.  They are thinking about the first step you took, the first word you uttered, the first time you were hurt or injured, the first time you won, and the first time you lost.  You are their proudest accomplishment – and so I hope you give them a break, and make sure to share today openly with them.

Being educated is not an accomplishment that is enjoyed by the majority of the world; in fact, today you join a small minority in the world population.  This has been, in part, due to your hard work – but it has also been a conscious decision by our community to give you the gift of education.  Be sure to say thank you to those who have been by your side for the whole, or even a part of the journey.  I hope that you will take up the challenge of freely and generously giving back by sharing your gifts, talents, and possessions; in so doing you fulfil your responsibility as a citizen of a global community.

You live in a complex world.  Arguably this era in human history is the most complex that we have ever seen and it is only going to become more complex.  But this is a sentence that could have been spoken at every graduation ceremony over the course of time.  Today you join all those who have gone before you and who have made the world what it is; the world didn’t make itself.  It took people just like you who had ideas, energy, skills and desire to get us to where we are now.  And you will be no different.  In the words of John Kennedy, “No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.”

I hope that you are proud of who you are because you have reason to be proud.  I hope that you feel prepared to make good life choices, and to pursue the opportunities that come your way.  I also hope that you are strong and resilient, confident young people who will be able to face, and then learn and grow from the challenges life brings to us.

Don’t be afraid to be who you are.  Henry Van Dyke taught us that we should “use what talent you possess:  the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

I want to encourage you to choose fulfilling adventures.  Make them your own, and design your life knowing that dreams may change, goals may shift and circumstances may get in the way.  Always remember that each of you is a unique and special individual; please don’t let anybody take that away from you.  In the words of Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition …”

Don’t let the fear of failure hinder your journey.  Be the wonderful you that you are.  In a Commencement Speech, Jim Carrey said,   “I learned many, many lessons from my father, but not least of which is that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love…go forward in your life with enthusiastic hearts and a clear sense of wholeness.”

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