‘Tis the season of graduations for colleges and universities this month. Next month high schoolers itching to burst forth free from the homes they’ve known and hall they’ve walked will parade down the aisles with diplomas in hand and tassels turned on their graduation caps.
Just because commencement speeches you hear about may be from famous politicos, celebrities and other witty types doesn’t mean you couldn’t be challenged one day to give your own commencement address.
After all, you do have something to say to send off those bright, shining faces who are about to take the leap into the “real world” and either survive or thrive as a result of the courses they’ve taken, choices they’ve made, and mentors and advisors they have listened to throughout their educational years. It’s time for them to move forward confidently into the lives they’ve imagined, as Thoreau so wisely suggested.
I challenge you: What would you say to those graduating in today’s marketplace, society and global conditions? Whether you are twenty-something yourself or if you are thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or older, I’m sure you must have something to say, don’t you?
I’m not one to give a challenge without also taking it on myself, so here are my remarks for Commencement 2013:
Graduates, Parents, Siblings, Other Family Members and Friends:
On this day and during this time, we celebrate those who have taken the risk and pursued their goals of graduating college (or high school).
Life is filled with accomplishments – big and small – and all deserve to be recognized, acknowledged and celebrated. That is the first of several insights I’d like to share with you today.
Some of you have traveled far to be here today – some of you to see a loved one graduate; other are that graduate and, my, what a long journey it may have been for you to get to the seat you’re sitting in now.
Take a moment now to first acknowledge yourself for doing whatever it took to get to this day: all of the plans you had to make, money you had to spend, coordination and collaboration you had to do, and the pieces and parts that worked and the others that didn’t. Now turn to the person next to you and congratulate them for making it to this moment. The truth is: they have no idea what it took for you to get here, and you have no idea what it took for them to get here either. But congratulate them anyway, without knowledge or judgment. They made it, and so did you.
Life is very much like today, filled with moments and opportunities to acknowledge oneself and commend others for their efforts, often not knowing what it really took for them to do what they did or be who they were for you in a particular time, place or situation – and vice versa what it took for you to be there for them.
In this 21st century, it is you who will determine what will and will not get your energy, effort, passion and contributions – from those you love to those you work for to those you serve.
You are the one who will determine your fate. You have the ultimate power to direct your destiny.
My suggestion to you, and all of those around you today, is this:
1) Understand what is important to you and what you value most in relationships. At the end of our lives, it is our relationships that have enriched our lives, not money that makes us rich. Choose wisely who you surround yourself with and make sure they value similar tenets and beliefs.
2) Learn to let go with ease and grace to the past that no longer serves you or anyone new you may meet. Learn how to say no to those people, places and things that no longer feel good and supportive. Release them with blessings and good wishes and close the chapters that need to end as quickly and as gracefully as you can.
3) Remain fabulous under fire. If life hands you situations that you feel may pull you asunder, in those moments of fear, anxiety and crisis, breathe. Remember who you are and who you were one minute ago. You are still the same bright, beautiful person with all of the same skills, support team, and strength that you were a minute ago. No one can change that but you.
People, companies, systems will continue to support you, test you, disappoint you, and challenge your belief in yourself.
It is you who must determine how you will handle each hurdle in your life, and I know you can do it.
Today, I want you to remember that we are all still learning, whether we are 21 or 91, and that living is something you actively do every day.
Do the best you can every day to live the life you have imagined. Remember to acknowledge yourself and to examine your life often to make sure it’s the one you enjoy.
Most of all, know that you have the right to remain fabulous in every situation, condition and circumstance.
Whatever may come your way, always believe in yourself and just be you.
Many people find it challenging enough to just be themselves. I ask you today to be who you are, to be willing to be vulnerable and take risks, to be willing to live the life you have imagined, and to accept and not settle for anything less.
You are not only your future – but you will lead the companies, governments and societies of our futures too.
So I thank you now and acknowledge you for getting to this moment – and to every moment after it with clarity, courage and conviction.
Now it’s your turn: What would you say to the graduating class of 2013?