Never to late to learn…..

Good Afternoon members of the administration, distinguished faculty and staff, graduating students and honored guests. I want to start and end with gratitude. Most of us who graduate today could not have reached this point without the patience, encouragement, and love of the most important people in our lives. If you’re the guest of a graduating student, be assured that your influence made today possible. This celebration is as much for you as for the ones who walk away with a diploma. Your faith carried us to the finish line. We will always be grateful.  

Those of us who choose to return to college as adults do so with an added sense of responsibility. Educational success is not a mere academic exercise to those of us who have had to balance classes and homework with family and jobs. Our success as individuals, the example we provide through our hard work, persistence, and dedication to learning can and will affect the lives of those we love. As much as we owe to those who supported us, we also shouldn’t forget the obstacles. The hardships. The events that knocked us down. The people who knocked us down.  Each of us has faced dark moments when this day seemed impossible… not even worth dreaming about. But worthy dreams grow even in darkness. We should pay our thanks to the obstacles in our lives. They proved the value of this dream, strengthened us on this journey, and prepared us to face all that may come.

To the graduates… I say you have proven yourselves. You can work a full-time job, raise a family, and complete a college degree. You have overcome. You have more reason to be confident than most. Be bold. Use that certainty in yourself and your qualifications to get your foot in the door of the career you always wanted. Do not ever let anyone tell you no. Be as determined and diligent as you were when you had weekly papers to turn in. Use those time management skills to improve your lot in life… and most importantly, never stop building on those skills. Never stop learning.

Our new knowledge allows each of us to be more helpful to those around us than we ever were before. Friends and family find our conversations filled with new insight and guidance. Reflect on your contribution to your friends and family before you began college… and consider your contribution now. Ask them if they’ve noticed a change, a transformation. For myself, I’ve found that my eyes no longer gloss over when my father speaks to me about math and science. My friends call me more often than I call them to bounce off ideas and ask what I would do if I was in their situation. In something as minor as watching television, I pick up extra nuances and plot twists that I never would have seen before. Professionally, I’m doing a better job at work. I’m able to adapt with the rapidly changing times and keep pace with advancing technology. I actually consider myself intellectually agile.  Education has taught each of us to take something that is broken, observe it, tear it apart, and put it back together to get it running again… whether it’s a computer… or that most delicate of machinery, a person we care for. Ultimately, education has allowed us to become more valuable to others. But of course, our transformation should extend beyond our personal circles. We should — we must — use our knowledge to contribute to society as well.

Many of us decided to get a degree to increase our earning power… and that’s good. A life of desperation is little benefit to anyone. But the greater wealth comes from sharing what we’ve learned, and using our new skills to contribute to the world at large. This journey to a college degree has transformed us from the curious student to the wise advisor… (But if we’re truly wise, we’ll never stop being the curious student).  And, as promised, I return to gratitude. To our families…you may at times have felt neglected by us as we hit the books and pursued deadlines… but you were never forgotten. You were what kept us going. You were why it mattered that we got it right. Only to our loved ones can we say: you gave us the greatest gift of our journey, you gave us freedom to grow. You sacrificed our time together, leaving us alone to spend an extra 20 hours a week on homework and classes. You weren’t always happy but you were never discouraging. And the person in my life who convinced me to return to school is sitting here today. The Judge told me, “They can never take away your education.” Graduating class…I say to you…your achievement is yours for a lifetime. Be proud of your efforts. You will have success and failure, achievement and sorrow, but your understanding of the world around you… no one can take that away. I honor the staff who facilitated our journey, and I applaud each of you who graduates today for your achievement. May you rise to every occasion, and declare victory in every endeavor. And may you all continue to learn and grow so that each tomorrow that lies ahead is another page in the story of your success.

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 7:48 AM  Leave a Comment  
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