Saturday, May 12, 2007

A message to the Class of 2007

This is the time of year for the celebration of accomplishments. Specifically of course I mean the celebration of graduation, a culminating moment in which all the hard work and achievement is recognized and commemorated. I have never been asked to give a commencement address, but I secretly have the hope that I will achieve a high enough status to be asked somehow or somewhere to give an address to young people about to embark on a new stage in their lives. I do have a blog on which I can live out my dreams to a certain extent and so here is my speech to an imaginary graduation commencement, it might be a college or high school. Maybe one day I can give it.

Graduates, Faculty, Staff, Family, Friends, and Guests, let me begin by saying congratulations Class of 2007! We gather here this evening to celebrate your hard work and your well-earned achievements. This is your night and I hope that you live it out to its fullest because tomorrow begins a new stage, a new door will open as this one closes, and tomorrow you enter the real world.

When I was asked to address you all this evening I must admit that I was nervous, I struggled with what to speak about. I have given hundreds of sermons in my career, but I do not want to preach to you. If you want to hear me preach you can come to my church this Sunday morning. I was nervous until I reached back into my memory to my high school graduation; no it has not been that long ago. I remembered standing in the hallway in my cap and gown, laughing and joking with my friends, I remember the Pomp and Circumstance being played by the band, and I remember looking at the crowd searching for my family and friends. I remember the speaker, Sheila Frost, a former student at GCHS who had achieved success in college basketball with the Lady Vols. I cannot, however, remember what it is she said, not a word. So I am relieved tonight that you probably are not listening to me and therefore will not remember what I say. You are waiting for me to shut up and sit down so that you can have your moment in the spotlight and walk across this stage. Bear with me, when a Methodist preacher gets the opportunity to speak, he or she does not easily give it up.

I hope that you will take with you this evening some tidbits or nuggets from my address and one day when you are thinking back on this day you can gain some wisdom or insight from my words. So I will give you some advice, it is something that I have done for 15 years or more to whomever will listen. Most of my advice is good, at least I think so, and most of it is practical, at least I think so.

My first nugget of wisdom I impart upon you all this evening is to relax. Yes, it is to chill out, cool down, hang loose, and take time to enjoy life. Life is full of stress; you lives have been stressful in the last four years. There have been final exams, papers, and SATs. There have been college and scholarship applications and the long wait for acceptance letters and tomorrow brings its own stress, some of you will be leaving family and friends for the new adventure of college or military service. But tonight, this moment is yours, it will last a lifetime, you will remember it for a lifetime, enjoy it. Life is filled with moments like this, culminations, celebrations, and reflections. Sometimes we can become so wrapped up in the business and stress of life that these moments of can slip by without notice, do not let this happen to you. Some of you will be taking senior trips to the beach, or mountains, or Europe, or wherever. Enjoy, responsibly and legally those moments. You’ve got the rest of your life to worry about the future, enjoy this moment because you deserve it.

You have earned a great feat, a great achievement. You have worked hard, some harder than others, to get to this point. Some have not made the cut, some have dropped out before the race was finished, but you all have endured and succeeded where so many others have failed. You should be proud of yourselves. You have earned an education that will last a lifetime. Your knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you. Education can bring you anything your heart desires, fortune, fame, success. The world is your oyster just ripe for your harvest, but it takes work, it does not come easy. You have achieved great things it is true, but so much more is left to be achieved.

You have been given a great power and I thank the women and men who have dedicated their lives to the transference of this power to the youth of America. Teachers stand up and be recognized. Graduates you have been empowered to achieve great things. But… yes there is always a but. With great power comes great responsibility. Yes I know that is a line from Spider-man, I could quote Shakespeare or Robert Frost, but this you might remember. The power of education comes with a great responsibility to society. You must go out unto the world and strive to make a difference. You can make money, its ok, but with great wealth comes great responsibility. You can become famous, but with great fame comes great responsibility. We live in a broken world. A world filled with violence, hatred, and greed. You can change it. There are thousands of people who will die today because of hunger and disease. You can change it. How you might ask? Take what you have learned and use it. Education is not something that you take and stick in your closet, never to be used again. Instead apply yourselves to the betterment of humanity and the world. If we can make small changes, if we all make a small dent, combined we can make some real changes. Now see I can’t help but to preach a little bit, it’s in my blood.

I want to close with one more nugget and that is to never stop learning. Some of you will go to college and then grad school, some will move on to a military career, some will take over family businesses, some will move into the workforce. Whatever you do, wherever you go, life will teach you lessons; learn them, embrace them. There are many twists and turns and sometimes you misstep, you make a wrong turn, and you make a mistake. Its ok, we all have. The important thing is to remember to learn from those mistakes and don’t repeat them. That is the difference between an explorer and a fool, the fool makes the same mistakes over and over again. Learn everything you can, read books, watch the Discovery Channel, read the newspaper, knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have the more you can do for the world and for yourselves.

The future is yours Class of 2007 reach out for it. You will see things that no one has seen before. You will experience technology unlike anything any of us can imagine right now. You will be a part of something beyond your imagination. This stage of the journey is over, but the entire path still lies before you. Walk with confidence, stand tall, face your fears, and remember that with your knowledge comes responsibility. But also remember to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the moments life gives you. Congratulations Class of 2007 and may God guide your steps and bless your journey. Thank you.

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