Welcome Distinguished Guests – A message for us all!

graduates hatThis is the season. A season mixed with endings and beginnings.

Our institutions of learning around the world, and perhaps more importantly within each of our neighborhoods are sending out groups of fresh faces and minds ready to tackle what is next in their young lives.

When the graduation is from college, or perhaps even high school, part of the exercise is also that a new group of parents or grandparents and other people that support them are also recognizing a shift in their own horizons. They have in many respects, just become unemployed. A variety of emotions and thoughts swirl around us.

One of my nephews graduated from high school this weekend. He will begin college in the fall. For my brother, his Dad, there is a touch of sadness at this growing which is also a going. His love for his son mandates he celebrate. He would have it no other way. He feels (and rightly so) tremendous pride. His love for his son also mandates his tears and exacts that price as well. While genuinely happy for his son there is also sadness. As I watched his emotions I flashed back to when it was my daughter’s milestones. The emotions were the same for me.

What I have learned over my own life at these milestone moments is that what we need to express to those that leave and those that remain is essentially the same. Our words to our graduates are the same admonitions that are true for those that have loved them and nurtured them to this point in their lives. These moments are not endings. They are beginnings. For everyone involved. Orrin Hatch said it well when he said that there is a good reason the very occasions themselves are called commencement exercises. It is a time of beginnings. And that is the real reason to celebrate. It is a time of beginnings for all of us.

As I thought about that and did some research into what we say at these events I found some words of wisdom that crossed the aisles of those in attendance. Here are five quotes that can speak to every person in the room. And perhaps even especially to those that may not understand that the beginnings are as much for them as those in caps and gowns.

“As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.” Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Computers, University of Texas at Austin, 2003

“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 other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary…Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

“Use your life in the service somehow to others and give back what you have been given. That’s how you keep it. That’s how you get it. That’s how you grow it.” Oprah Winfrey, Howard University, 2007

“There’s no there. That elusive ‘there’ with the job, the beach house, the dream, it’s not out there. There is here. It’s in you, right now.” Brian Kenny, Ohio Northern University, 2007

“Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed.” Mia Hamm, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014

We are all starting a new season. And we are all on some level, somewhat afraid of what that means. When I come to these places in life I am reminded of the words of Marianne Williamson in her book: A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.