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Greetings Class of 2010

June 22, 2010

There’s a time for joy, a time for tears,

A time we’ll treasure through the years.

We’ll remember always,

Graduation Day.

– The Beach Boys

My colleague David Cohen recently provided a description of the sights, sounds, and emotions of Graduation Day.  But, as noted, he always wonders if anyone in the audience can ever give full attention to the various speeches given on such an occasion.  Assuming this is true, and I think it is, it is now my privilege to provide a somewhat universal commencement speech for all of those inattentive attendees who did not fully hear the keynote address at their own graduation ceremonies this June.

Greetings class of 2010 on the occasion of your graduation from high school.  You, your parents, teachers, coaches, and all the other people who helped you reach this important chapter in your life deserve a sincere congratulations.

Class of 2010, this is a critical moment in your evolution as individuals.  You now face a bittersweet landscape filled with precious memories of the past, optimistic goals for the future, and plenty of choices and challenges along the way.

As someone who has traveled the treacherous trail to maturity, let me be one of the many who will offer you advice on your day of achievement.  Take these words to heart; place them at the top of your “to do” list; and let them be your guide.

First, give your supporters a big hug. Whether you know it or not, whether they show it or not, your mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, or other special person who raised you, loves you and wants only the best for you.  They may at times (or all the time) seem either pushy or uninterested, smothering or distant, gross or goofy … but they must have done something right to produce someone as special as you.  Besides, now is not the time to burn any bridges. There may be college tuition to pay and laundry to do on the weekends.  And, if the economy keeps sputtering, you will need their roof over your head for a long time.  You don’t want to run the risk of having your bedroom converted into an office or yoga studio while you are away.

Second, if you are off to college, take advantage of the experience.  Given the choice of attending class or doing the reading, attend class.  Better yet, do both.  You will probably end up studying computers, chemistry, economics, or political science.  But take a course or two in a subject that sounds a bit frivolous.  Try ethnic dance, history of jazz, gospel choir, or children’s literature.  You will undoubtedly learn something that you can use in the future.  Embrace new experiences, new friends, new subjects, and a new campus.  Change can be hard but the next four years of your life will teach you more than you can imagine about who you are as an individual and your amazing potential.

Third, pace yourself.  Many of you have exhibited the uncanny ability to excel at everything.  You were able to take eight AP classes, play two musical instruments, speak three languages, captain both an athletic and academic team, run medical experiments on the weekend, and win a blue ribbon at the science fair, all on about four hours of sleep.  Enough already.  You are making the rest of us look like slackers, and you will burn yourself out before grad school.  Take time to smell the roses, hike the Sierras, and watch the sun set over your favorite ocean.

Fourth, remain humble.  You may think you know it all, but the more you learn, the more you learn that you really don’t know much at all.  Don’t make fun of the geeks and nerds. They will end up being billionaires, and you may need a job.  And don’t dismiss the average kid either.  He or she may also be your boss some day.

Fifth, despite what your parents say, you don’t need to be a doctor or lawyer.  Be a teacher.  You may make a lot less money, but there is not a more important or influential profession.

Sixth, make the world better.  Don’t expect your parents, the government, or the other guy to do it for you.  Plant flowers, pick up trash, and help your neighbors.  Coach a team, volunteer at a hospital, and feed our hungry brothers and sisters.  Spend an afternoon with your grandmother, a weekend with your fellowship group, and a vacation building homes for the homeless.  Consider public service.  Get involved and stay involved.

Seventh, travel. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Eighth, don’t be afraid of failure.  Those who have achieved greatness whether it be in business, medicine, politics, education, or public service stepped out of their comfort zones and failed a few times.

Ninth, keep a journal or write a blog.  What seems unimportant today, may be very important in the future; if not to you, then to your children and grandchildren.  Write about your firsts and lasts, your highs and lows, your dreams and accomplishments.  Be honest, but discrete.  And when your words are read many years from now, make sure the reader will be able to say “Now there was a life well lived.”

Tenth, be passionate about something.  Whether it is preaching or teaching, planting or planning, physics or fitness, give it all you’ve got.  Take risks.  Well, reasonable risks, anyway.  If the butterflies are fluttering in your stomach as you approach the podium, the interview room, or the starting line, you are probably on the right track.  Avoid the narrow-minded zealots at both ends of the spectrum, but don’t wallow in the safety of mediocrity either.  Be an individual but committed to the community.  Do your best, master the art of tolerance, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Well, that’s it Class of 2010.  It’s now up to you.  You are our future whether you like it or not.  Don’t forget to send us an e- mail once in a while.  Now go out there and do something great!

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