Last week I had the privilege of addressing the graduates of our local Adult Education Department. The whole class had wonderfully inspiring stories of perseverance, dignity, and strength. Below is my address to them. Maybe you’ll appreciate my words.
Congratulations to the 2022 Graduating Class! You’ve earned it. Well done.
I have been asked to address you tonight, and to be honest, I feel a little strange standing before you because I imagine you all have a lot to teach me. You’re the stars of this show.
You’ve overcome many obstacles.
You’ve shed some tears (maybe a lot).
You’ve probably said some stuff you didn’t mean to the people you love.
You’ve stopped and started again, and potentially have done that more than once.
But here you are! You’re finished. Hallelujah!
We’re all proud of you.
4 Things to Do From This Point Forward
I do have to do my job up here tonight, don’t I? So, let me make a few points.
First, thank everyone that has helped you get to this point in your life.
We all come from different backgrounds and different perspectives. We have all faced different obstacles in our lives. I’m not going to stand before you and act as if I know what you have been through because I don’t. It would be ridiculous for me to think that I do.
But, I do know this: you didn’t get to this point in your life without someone helping you. You had a teacher offer a helping hand with a difficult subject. You had a mom keep your children so you could do your schoolwork. You had a child cheer you on as you fought to get your diploma. You had a friend to pick up the emotional pieces of your life when you thought you couldn’t do it. You had a pastor challenge you to go back and finish your schooling. There were countless others who were there for you along the way.
And, yes, that includes those who told you that you couldn’t do it. You’d never amount to anything. You’d never be enough. Thank them for fueling your fire with their negativity.
Tonight, you celebrate a great accomplishment, but don’t think you did it all by yourself. There are many people who helped you get to this point. Make sure to thank them.
Second, take the lessons you’ve learned in grit and determination with you.
You have gained a wealth of knowledge during your time as a student. You’ve learned about English grammar, algebraic equations, geometric shapes, literature, historical events and their significance, how government works, and so on. You have mastered this information. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be here tonight.
And, those lessons will serve you well. You intuitively will be able to engage the world in which you live. Your education has seeped into your bones and has become part of you. You’re more capable now than you were when you started. You will no longer struggle to figure out how to compute per unit prices at the grocery store to determine whether or not you are getting the best value for your dollar.
The greatest lessons of a completed education (I have to be careful saying this because I don’t want your teachers and administrators to charge the stage.), however, aren’t the ones you learned as you studied the subject matter. Rather, they are the ones you learned in the process of completing your educational requirements.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth has a defined grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” You’ve demonstrated grit over the course of your study. Some of you had longer-term goals than others but all of you have accomplished them nonetheless. As you continue your adult lives, this testimony of your grit will pay dividends in your life. It will remind you that CAN set goals, that you CAN persevere to attain them, and that you CAN complete them. Confidence is an invaluable characteristic for anyone who desires to accomplish anything in this life, let alone something great. And, tonight’s accomplishment will supply you with overflowing confidence. Never forget what you have done, and let the story of how you’ve done it inspire you to set goals and accomplish them throughout the rest of your lives. Don’t give up.
Third, fight to make sure you do the right thing, always.
You have probably heard the MLK quote that says, “The time is always right to do what is right.” It’s always the right time to do the right thing.
It’s always right to be kind to others.
It’s always right to be generous with your time, talents, and resources.
It’s always right to be a humble person.
It’s always right to be a loyal friend.
It’s always right to love other people well.
It’s always right to support and train the children around you.
It’s always right to motivate your friends and family while holding them accountable for their actions.
Make sure you fight against the temptation to take the easy way out or to not do the right thing. You learned how to fight this temptation when you were tempted to not turn in those assignments or complete the course of study before you, but you did it anyway. You know how strong those temptations are, and you know you have to fight hard to overcome them.
This is where faith comes into play. As a Christian pastor, I trust in a great and wonderfully powerful God who enables me to overcome the temptations of this world. If you have a similar faith in our God, then I encourage you to rely upon Him and His power. Fight to make sure you always do the right thing.
Finally, strive to make the world a better place.
Education is a wonderful thing. It gives you confidence. It makes you more adept at interacting with our world. It gives you an opportunity to better yourself. You know all of these things, for they are probably the reasons you decided to return to school.
However, your education is for more than just your benefit. It’s for the benefit of others. In this county, we believe in an educated public because it makes the world a better place. It makes everyone more capable of providing for themselves. It informs our public debates. It makes our democracy possible. The freedom, standard of living, and opportunity that we enjoy are only possible because we have an educated population. As education goes, so goes our country.
Now, that you have completed your secondary education, you need to be an advocate in our community for education. Impress upon your children and your grandchildren the importance of being well-educated. Help the teachers in our schools; they have tough jobs. Tutor students. Tell them to behave and commit to life-long learning. Use your influence and experience to make Chester County a better and more educated place to live and work.
As the Scriptures teach us, we all need to focus our attention on other people more than we focus it on ourselves.
In conclusion, I want to say again that it has been my honor to be a part of your special celebration. Thank you for giving me your attention and your time. Again, I say congratulations to you all. Job well done!
May God bless you richly in His grace.