The Wisdom and Courage that Graduation Now Requires

The Wisdom and Courage that Graduation Now Requires

Students are graduating en masse this month, from colleges and universities, from high schools and middle schools, even my neighbor’s son from his pre-school. Many of whom have not been able to attend school in person during this pandemic year with their peers, their friends, their teachers who care, year after year, and who this year had to convey that caring online. 

Here are three samples of wisdom and encouragement being offered right now, so deeply needed right now, to those students, by those students:

My friend Mark offered this “mantra” to his graduating high school biology students last week (with credit to Wes Nisker for the last three lines):

Be good to yourself,
Be good to the people around you.
Go forth and multiply
Your knowledge and understanding.
Question authority,
Although do pay attention to expertise to help guide you;
Question reality,
While making yours healthy, peaceful, equitable, just,
Environmentally healing, kind and fun loving.
And if you don’t like the news,
And there’s boatload out there to dislike,
Go out and make some of your own.

More sage advice that I often include in my teachings on resilience, from John Roberts, Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court. This is not a political opinion, nor a legal opinion, but very wise psychological advice given in his commencement speech at son’s middle school graduation:

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.  I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the important of loyalty.  Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. 

I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and the failure of others is not completely deserved either.  

And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then your opponent will gloat over your failures.  It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.  

Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

And then the link to Paxton Smith’s valedictory speech at her high school graduation in Dallas, Texas last week, a spontaneous and courageous protest against laws devaluing women’s rights that quickly went viral, and the CNN story putting it all in context. 

Sage advice for strange times. Graduation from one chapter of life, commencing another usually larger chapter, always brings the paradoxes of joy, relief, pride and uncertainty, doubt, nerves. May these samples of courage and resilience inspire you as you commence the next chapter in your own (we hope) post-pandemic life.

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