A note to graduates

5/15/2017

Dr. Hal Brady

Congratulations to all 2017 high school graduates! Graduation from high school is a notable milestone, and you are to be congratulated upon reaching this very significant moment in your life and in the life of your family. In your transition from student to graduate, our nation is once again blessed with renewed creativity and the blessing of youthful idealism.

With two of our own grandchildren graduating this year, I am particularly mindful of the significance of this moment. With a sort of beaming pride, I want to share a few thoughts with them, but also with others who have reached this high moment.

Before going further, however, I hope all of you will keep in mind that graduation is Commencement. To commence is not to end but to begin. As Carol Burnett once put it, “We don’t stop going to school when we graduate.” Of course, she’s talking about being a life-long learner.

But after all the congratulations and celebrations have quieted down, a good place to begin is with a “productive pause.” Louis O. Caldwell, psychotherapist and author, coined that phrase and reminded us that “pauses” were a vital part of Jesus’ earthly life. The idea is that Jesus paused again and again to restore and enlarge his perspective.

A pause at this time might just be the ticket to help you think through the great expectations of a diploma bearer. As a matter of fact, a leading educator of our time said, “A high school diploma is heavy. It is heavy with expectations.” And it is!

One expectation is that the diploma bearer will be something rather than have something! Who you are is far more important than what you do or accomplish. Every day adds to the importance and seriousness of this word, integrity. Integrity means wholeness, soundness, honesty, consistency, character.

A gentleman shared with me an admirable testimony to his personal honor and integrity. In another state he had refused to sell his vote for great personal gain in a large business transaction. He commented, “Eventually, because of it, I lost my job. But I can still look myself in the mirror, and I like what I see.” No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning oneself.

A second expectation is that the diploma bearer will be an asset to society rather than a liability! Someone commented, “It is very commendable that many of our graduates will start out in the world with high ideals, great hopes and strong determination to serve humankind. But what these young graduates are going to find in the world is something else. Today’s graduates should be told that in the world morality, honesty and conscience are colored a nasty grey.” And as we continue to read about all the scandals, swindles and hackings in the world we know that to be true.

What is an asset anyway? An asset is something or someone having value – someone who makes better, contributes, gives, supports, challenges, encourages, affirms, and who keeps on keeping on. Above all, an asset is someone who makes better.

A third expectation is that the diploma bearer will be grateful rather than insensitive! Who are the happy people? Better still, who are the glad people? They are the grateful people. I have never seen a glad person who was not also a grateful person.

In your gratitude, you will be a better student, citizen, employee, mate, friend, and person. On the other hand, insensitivity leads to feelings of entitlement, selfishness, irresponsibility, increased burdens, blaming others, and whining. Gratitude leads to gladness.

And a fourth expectation is that the diploma bearer will bring the best he or she has to the highest he or she knows! We are told in God’s word to “set our affections on things above.” In other words, give your heart to something, fasten your feelings on something high enough to hold them. And if I may, I would like to suggest that the only person high enough to hold your finest affections is God.

When the young Michelangelo announced that he wanted to become a sculptor, a master sculptor said to him, “My son, this will take your life,” to which young Michelangelo answered, “What else is life for?” Well, whatever life is for, it is to be strong in our commitment to God and the higher things.

Yes, that diploma is heavy. It is, indeed, heavy with expectations. Again, congratulations on your graduation. We are all so proud of you, and thanks for listening.

Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.