Graduation Speech

My cousin, Rick, sent an email a couple days ago in which he shared a copy of a speech that was given by a graduating high school senior. I was so moved by the content that I asked for permission to post it here on my blog.

I want to preface the speech by mentioning that this student was graduating from a school in Tokyo, Japan where my cousin works.

It’s a long read, but well worth the time to read through to the end. I’d have to say that this is the most deep and meaningful graduation speech that I’ve ever known of. Read on……

When posed with the challenge of giving the graduation speech for the Class of 2011, I had trouble formulating exactly what I wanted to say. There was no rubric, no prompt, and an infinitely vast expanse of possibilities I could cover. While the idea of this freedom might sound freshly exhilarating to some, I found it rather troublesome.

This is, essentially, the closing statement we have to make, our final hug before we say goodbye, the punctuation ending our sentence here. But perhaps most daunting, it is the last time we will all be together. If you can’t tell, the pressure was starting to get to me. So, I thought to myself, what is it that needs most to be said? And more importantly, how do I not make this boring?

As cliche as it is, I could nostalgically trace back through our educational history here at CAJ, citing important works of literature we’ve read, global issues we’ve discussed, or the mistakes we’ve made – can anyone say ‘freshman ditch day?’ – but really, none of that matters at this point. Either we’ve learned something from these things or we haven’t, but I do not think that now is the time for me to stand here pretending to wax
poetic about the beauty of the journey we have taken thus far, and the resulting metamorphosis that has turned us into gorgeous butterflies ready to come forth from our cocoon and take flight. Because the truth is, retained academic knowledge and the pursuit of factual intelligence is not what the last twelve years of our lives have been about. When we need it most, though I know of some who undoubtedly question that
we’ll need it at all, we won’t be able to recall Newton’s third law, the graph of the cosine function, or which worldview Hobbes created.
Instead, we’ll remember a mix of the conversations we had with each other in class and waiting in the lunch line, a catchy chorus from that one choir song and the last second shot that determined our temporary fate, and, of course, the friendships we’ve forged with the very special people around us who have left lasting fingerprints on our lives.

But maybe most importantly, we’ll remember where we were at 2:46 pm on March 11th. I say this not to be dramatic, touching, or trite, but instead, to best summarize the feelings we confront tonight. The emotions stirred in our hearts from the earthquake and the weeks after it presented two paradoxes. The first was a feeling of fear in wanting to run to safety, but at the same time, courage in the determination of overcoming the obstacles before us. The second paradox we faced was the desperate desire to help those in need, while we found ourselves in a state of feeling utterly helpless. We faced the realization that, as much as we may have formerly believed, we were not in the driver’s seat.

But in this tangled mess of confusion, one truth ruled over all others: God’s sovereignty. Tonight, we are faced with similar feelings of fear, courage, and the understanding we are not in control. And tonight, we are met with the exact same conclusion: God is sovereign. For us Seniors, the moment we experienced as we stood evacuated on the soccer field, and the monumental earthquake we experienced in Thailand a mere two weeks later, shook each one of us to our cores. The emotionally draining experience of going through two straight life altering events left us with no other option than to run to the outstretched arms of God. Suddenly, the eyes of each student in this class were opened to what life is all about: depending on God. For the Class of 2011, these earthquakes brought cosmos into our lives, as we realized surrendering ourselves to God was the only thing that made sense.

As we move on from high school, we are thrust into a new chapter of our lives that is mysterious and unknown, much like the days after the earthquake. And while some part of all of us wants to stay behind in the comfortable habitat we’ve been in for so long, somewhere inside we also want to bravely jump into the enigmatic future, despite having no idea of what will happen to us when we do. But we do know one thing: that in the face of the coming uncertainty, as well as in the moments of peace, God remains in complete control. Though tonight is a reminiscent event full of farewells and tears, let us not treat it as such. But rather, let us enjoy tonight as the celebration of a leap of faith for these 47 individuals into an all-powerful, all-loving God’s arms, because he has a wonderful, wonderful plan in store for each of our lives.

Thank you.