Choice Not Chance

It's hard to believe that another school year has ended and the high school class of 2007 is in the midst of moving on. This class, like all classes before them, has made a powerful ...

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It's hard to believe that another school year has ended and the high school class of 2007 is in the midst of moving on. This class, like all classes before them, has made a powerful impact upon all of our communities. There are a record number of seniors going off to Ivy League colleges on scholarships. There are an exceptional number of young people going off to the Service Academies and enlisting in the military.

This year's high school seniors have made their mark scholastically as well as athletically. An impressive number of sports teams have made it to the states with significant numbers bringing state titles home to their high schools and to our local communities.

However, what is most impressive about the class of 2007 is how many seniors, in addition to all their school activities, are involved in community service. Yes, many school districts have a mandatory requirement, but many do not. More significant is the number of students who complete their obligatory number of hours and continue to give of themselves without expecting anything in return. Not to mention the countless number of seniors who give of themselves with no compelling obligation.

This past year there were so many different campaigns to help the sick, the poor and the needy, not to mention the various specialized needs of people who suffered terrible tragedies during the year. So many of those efforts were successful because of the class of 2007 and their generous spirit.

Their commitment to community service and their spirit of inclusiveness is refreshing, especially since we live in a world that seems more grounded in narcissism and self-centeredness rather than one that thinks about others first, especially those in need.

Seniors, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than a successful academic record. Showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice is more significant than any science formula. These are difficult lessons to learn because they demand that you risk all that you are now for what you could become tomorrow.

Look around you. We are living in very challenging times. A new revolution is afoot. Your generation is moving away from the indifference and complacency of yesterday and is moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility. It is happening around the world, especially in Latin and South America. It is not happening among the politically elite, but is happening among our young, our students, your peers. It gives me hope that tomorrow will be better.

As you graduate from high school, keep these simple thoughts in mind: May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and to work for a peace grounded in justice.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

May the teachings of those you admire become a part of who you are so that you may call upon them. It is the content and quality of who you are that is important, not merely the actions you take.

Don't judge a book by its' cover or stop at the introduction. Read it through, seek the meaning and message of every life, for every life is sacred; even the lives of those that are different from you or whom you do not like.

Be more inclusive than exclusive. Don't be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame and guilt to shackle people down and divide them. Set people free with your respect and non-judgmental way.

May you never become too concerned with material matters, but instead place immeasurable value on the goodness in your heart and the hearts of others. Find time each day to see beauty and love in the world around you. Realize that you have limitless opportunities and possibilities. What you may feel you lack in one regard, may be more than compensated for in another.

May you see your future as one filled with promise and possibility. Learn to view everything as a worthwhile experience. May you seek enough inner strength to determine your own worth and not be dependent on another's judgment of your accomplishments.

Get up every day and be grateful for what you have. Suck the marrow out of life as you face life's challenges. Don't see the glass as half empty; only see it as half full. See every life experience and human encounter as a learning experience, as an opportunity to grow and become more than you are now.

Think positive, make positive choices. Choice, not chance determines one's destiny. You may make a living by what you get, but you will make a life by what you give.

Give generously of your heart, your time, your talent and your treasure. The autograph you leave will make a tremendous difference in our world.

So seniors, as you take leave, what is your purpose? What is your mission? Your life will be what you create it to be. No one can take that life from you. There is no blackboard in the sky that has your life outlined for you. You get to fill out the blackboard of your life with whatever you feel is important. If you have filled it with junk from the past, wipe it clean. Erase all the hurt and pain that have blocked you from living and loving, and be grateful that you are now in a place where you have a new beginning, a fresh opportunity to start anew and make something wonderful of your life.

May you always seek peace and justice. May you build bridges, not walls. Live a balanced life. Learn a little; think a little, dance, play and have a great sense of humor. But most of all be aware of wonder.

Empower, don't enable. Forgive, forget. Don't ever get even and don't judge others. Have a compassionate heart and a generous spirit. Always take time to smell the flowers in your life.

Be on guard. We live in a world that is very deceptive. Don't let the corrupt political rhetoric of our time blind your eyes, impair your hearing or shackle your dreaming. As you graduate, the social landscape that you must navigate is treacherous. Be prepared to sail some stormy waters, but don't lose heart. Draw on the goodness that lives within and the goodness of others to stay the course.

May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed or their sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice.

As Dr. Seuss reminds us, "...remember that life is a great balancing act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left...And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! Kid, you'll move mountains! So, you're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!" (Oh The Places You'll Go)

As you go, may you always feel loved. And when you go out into the world, don't be afraid to hold hands and stick together!

Congratulations graduates of 2007. Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be.