Congratulations Class of 2009

It's hard to believe that another graduation season is upon us. I have been thinking a lot about this significant event. So much has happened this past school year.
What do you say ...

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It's hard to believe that another graduation season is upon us. I have been thinking a lot about this significant event. So much has happened this past school year.

What do you say to a generation of seniors who have been exploited by a system that is more concerned about SAT scores and grade point averages than with the content and quality of their character? It is frightening to think that we live in a world where we constantly talk about love and peace, but our actions speak more to war and hate.

This past year, we have been bombarded with a series of tragic and senseless acts of violence that have taken innocent peoples lives. Each tragic circumstance occurred due to reckless decision making. None of the young people involved wanted a life to be lost, but for a variety of reasons, poor choices were made that contributed to the senseless loss of innocent life.

Young people are resilient and think they are invisible. Have we learned anything from this senseless loss of life? Life is fragile, no matter how invincible one might feel. Henry David Thoreau says the greatest human tragedy is to reach death and realize one has never lived!

Graduates, as you continue your journey realize that being human is more important than a successful academic record. Showing compassion and understanding grounded in justice is more significant than a science formula that you might have learned. 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. There is a radical revolution afoot. Your generation is moving away from the indifference and complacency of yesterday and is moving toward a renewed idealism of freedom and responsibility. It is happening in China, parts of Africa, Latin America and throughout Europe. Who would have thought that the class of 2009 would witness and participate in the election of our first African-American president? This dynamic change is not happening among the political elite, but among our young, our students, your peers. It gives me great hope that tomorrow will definitely be better.

These are exciting times. Advances in technology are changing our lives every day. Your generation is a part of changing the political and social landscape of our world. You have a unique opportunity to be a part of that process that will only facilitate positive change and transformation for all of us.

Hopefully, our new presidential administration will hold to its promise to be more concerned about people and their quality of life than about bureaucracies and other systems that have no regard for human life. This past year, we have been painfully reminded of the suffering and struggling of so many among us. We are living through probably the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. More people are unemployed and in danger of losing their homes than ever before. The incidences of hate and discrimination have been alarming. The growing use of firearms and reckless decision-making around social behavior has been deeply disturbing.

As you continue your journey after graduation, keep in mind these simple thoughts: may you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace. 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 only know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue to navigate in our complicated world.

May the teachings of those you admire become a part of you, so you may call upon them especially in your time of need. It is the content and quality of who you are that is important, not merely your academic milestones or social achievements you reach.

May you not become too concerned with material matters, but instead place immeasurable value on the goodness in your heart. Find time each day to see beauty and love in the world around you. Realize that you have limitless opportunities and possibilities. What you feel you may lack in one regard, may be more than compensated for in another.

The future desperately needs you. We need you to commit yourself to the larger community. We need you to be willing to risk moving out of your comfort zone and speak on behalf of justice and peace. We need you to become more involved in the very fabric of your local community. Volunteer for public service in the areas of fire service and the local ambulance group. Get involved in various civic organizations within your community. Consider running for the school board and/or local government. Take an active role and realize you have something substantial and valuable to contribute.

Don t be afraid to give voice to the voiceless, and the injustices you see. Have the courage to challenge that which you feel is unfair, or possibly do not understand. Don't fall victim to the cynicism and indifference that is infecting our world. Your voice and opinion are important and can make a significant difference. Don't become a wasteland of human potential!

Work hard, play hard, build bridges and not walls. Live a balanced life. Learn a little, think a little, dance, play-have a sense of humor. But most of all be aware of wonder! And when you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together!

May you always feel loved and valued!

Congratulations graduates of the class of 2009! Thanks for making the world a better place.