Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts on Graduation

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own.  And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.” - Dr. Seuss

Our daughter will be graduating from high school in a couple days and helping her navigate the myriad choices for her future has put me into a contemplative spirit.

The majority of speeches you hear at graduations fall into two categories:  1. Mourning the loss of childhood and the passing of the "best time of your life".  These speeches are usually given by the graduates themselves, because anyone who has been out of high school for more than thirty minutes knows this is not the case.  If the years from 14-18 were truly the highlight of life, depression would be rampant among adults.

2.  The "you can do anything" speech.  Visualize your goals; if you can dream it, you can do it; reach for the stars; don't let anyone stand in your way....  Again, most adults know this philosophy is also a load of c**p.  Goals and dreams are great, but they are not always achievable by sheer force of will.  Sometimes the ways of the world, the wants/needs of others or any of a hundred other circumstances beyond our control get in the way.  These speeches fill kids with the idea that they are worthless if their goals are not to be a CEO, drive luxury cars and vacation in exotic locales.  In a commencement speech at Kenyon College, Bill Watterson, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, said it much better than I ever could:
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.  You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them. - Bill Watterson

While we encouraged our kids to go to college, to prepare themselves for the job market, and to get away from home and experience a new part of the world, our greatest prayer for them has always been that they would be godly people and find joy in whatever they do.  Now we just pray that the speeches from home outweigh the speeches from the world. 

Congratulations to our Brown-Eyed Girl and to all others who are starting a new part of life's journey in the next few weeks.


  1. Very well put. The two of you have had 18 years to talk and walk the message you want your kids to get. They know it, even if they may not act like it at this stage of their lives.

    I hope you relax and enjoy this celebration since it's your celebration as well. Celebrate 18 years of parenthood well done. Congratulations to all of you.

  2. Oh I do love that quote from Oh The Places You'll Go! I have given that book out to several friends through the years as graduation gifts.

    Mr. Rogers was one of the speakers at my college graduation. Someone my generation grew up with and as an Education major, especially thrilling. We got to sing along with "won't you be - my neighbor" and those are great words to live by too. Go out, be welcoming and neighborly. Good neighbors make for happier lives.