...To the area graduates and all who either have, or are about to, experience 'Commencment'
Here's the Commencement Address (I wasn't asked to give)...
Every year at this time, I have made it a custom to write (and publish) a Commencement Address. Mostly, I do this because I have never been invited to deliver one and I am approaching my fifty-third (53rd) year of existence.
There is still time. As Alexander Pope once wrote in An Essay on Man, ”Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” For those of you in eduction around the area, consider this my audition for next year’s graduation exercises.
Now, without further adieu, here is the address I was (once again) not invited to deliver…
Ladies, gentlemen, esteemed faculty, staff, and graduates, I am honored to have been invited to address you on this very important of days. This ceremony is called a “Commencement.” Like everything else in life, it is called a Commencement, as opposed to the myriad other things it could have been called, for a reason.
The word reflects the latin inceptio which means “beginning.” This was also the name given the ceremony of initiation for new scholars into the fellowship of university teachers in medieval Europe. Commencement, even then, marked the inception of a scholar’s full-fledged academic life. Let this “Commencement” likewise mark yours.
As you can see, I have used my vast educational experiences to learn how to Google search the definition and etymology of a word such as “Commencement.” If any of you don’t know the meaning of “etymology,” then I would recommend Google’s search engine.
The ceremony you are undergoing today is marking the beginning and not an end. Too many times, particularly these days, young people get to their Commencements and think, “Jeez, I am glad I have finally reached the end.” You haven’t reached the end of anything. You do yourselves a terrible disservice in thinking this way.
Many of us older people watching today’s proceedings would attest that nothing, for either you or us, is finished. Your journeys have only just begun.
You are far from a finished product. Your eduction is far from ended.
Life is a journey full of learning. Life, if you are receptive to it, is a trek through which many of your attitudes and beliefs may be challenged and may even morph into something quite different before the final race has been completed.
You are never too old to change. You are never too old to learn. You are never either too young or old to succeed.
Your parents, your teachers, this fine faculty, and all of the adults in your lives who are here to witness your first steps down this path which is to be your life’s work and mission have tried to invest you with the tools you will need to sculpt your lives into works of art. It is their conjoined hopes that what they have worked toward forming will continue to blossom into things of beauty and finished products which, at the end of your days, both your descendants and you will be able to look back on while beaming with pride, the same pride with which many of them are now beaming.
Honor their efforts. Honor their efforts by never giving up, never giving in, and standing upright against life’s many temptations in commitment to the values given to you by them, and those you have personally deemed worthwhile over the course of living your experiences, from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
As you move your tassel from one side to the other, remember; life for you is in the midst of change. Learning, and the methods by which you will continue to learn, is changing. Nothing for you is over, just merely beginning.
You have many friends and family now. However, as you move through this life you will add, exponentially to that which is now woven. You will weave new friends and family into the fabric of your existing quilts.
That which has been woven by today will remain, provided they were truly who you thought them to be. That which is to be woven in the future will be added to what you now have.
Your quilt, picturing your life’s experiences and the relationships for which you continue to weave it, will grow from here. It gets longer, not shorter. Nothing has ended.
Go out into the world and do good work. Don’t chase the trappings in life which end up amounting to nothing. Accept God’s plan for you gracefully and happily.
If God wants you to go to Nineveh, then go happily. Don’t make Him send a very large fish for you.
Determine pathways which advance your societies, which leave lasting marks on the places where you live and work, and raise families which will do the same. Let these be your aspirations.
Leave this world a place where those in it believe it to have been bettered by your having once lived here. I believe you will find “making a living” may well take care of itself.
The attainment of wealth and the accumulation of “things” are conveniences. Neither of them are goals. If they are your goals, you will learn at some point in life’s journey that those goals were both fleeting and unworthy of you.
If your goals are to help the people around you, enrich the communities in which you live and work, and to faithfully answer whatever calling God has for you, as dead-level well as you are capable, you will be richly rewarded. You will find yourself satisfied and satiated.
What is it I hope you to take away from this address today? The answer is elementary and the same as what all of those smiling faces who have come here today to support you also want.
Leave here today committed. Commit yourselves to continuing the work which has begun with your eductions here at _________ High School. Commit yourselves to continuing the work which has begun with your parents, families, extended families, and Churches. Continue to chip away at the excess rock until something beautiful, resplendent, and immaculate remains.
In 1858, in a publication titled, “The Methodist Quarterly Review,” an essayist, whose identity wasn’t disclosed, compared the similarities between poetry and sculpture. He wrote, “It is the sculptor’s power, so often alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features…in the shapeless block of marble; and his (or her) ability to chip off all extraneous matter, and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself.”
God has placed within you something beautiful and divine. There is, in each of you, a divine excellence which can and may, if you let it, stand forth for itself.
Your teachers, your parents, your communities and Churches are telling you today with their presence and beaming pride, they have begun this sculpture for you. You have to take it from here.
Thank you so much for your attention. This is Fletcher Long, from the Times-Voice, feeling very privileged to have addressed you today (though uninvited) and reminding this esteemed assemblage you may take this for whatever you find it worth but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!
Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association.