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Graduates Please Come to Your Senses

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Graduates, faculty, parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, avid users of this Web site, people looking for a commencement speech online and found this link in a Google search … I have not been asked to deliver this address today. In fact, several tried to talk me out of it. But I have always wanted to deliver a commencement address and since it is graduation season I believe now is the time.

Graduating students across America, more than 20 years ago I sat in the same place that you sit today. As you consider all of the options that the world will afford you, I am sure you are filled with many questions that need answering. I know your plight well, for I too had many questions on the night I graduated. For example, why can't we wear Elvis Presley Viva Las Vegas jumpsuits instead of these caps and gowns? How can I convince Dad to give me $100 dollars for no reason after the ceremony? I wonder if the lovely and vivacious Susie Schmechenbecher will be at the party later?

Perhaps the most critical question you are asking is what now? Where do I go from here? What is the best strategy for coughing a hundred bucks out of dear old Dad? The answer to all of your questions can be found in this statement: the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I will say it again: the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. This is critically important to remember. How do I know this? Because it was written on a sign hanging above the stage the night I received my diploma. I had completely blotted it from my memory until I was sifting through old photographs recently as I conducted research for this address. I pondered how I could have forgotten such an important nugget of truth? Then I remembered; I was daydreaming about Susie Schmechenbecher.

As you take that first step on your journey it is important to remember that you will be doing so with the aid of your five senses. I am speaking of course of the ability to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

See

Take time to see everything that God has placed in your path. Some of the greatest beauty your eyes will ever see lies in the simple things. The man or woman of your dreams. A peculiar looking plant growing in your back yard. A defining moment.

Hear

Listen to everything people tell you, good and bad. Many people confuse hearing with the ability to listen. My wife reminds me of this on a daily basis. While hearing is certainly an important sense, the ability to listen is priceless. Listening equates learning. In other words, the more you listen the more you learn. The more you learn the more religiously, socially, and economically responsible person you will become. But critically inherent in the listening process is the ability to discern good from bad, right from wrong, just from unjust. The Bible serves as a wonderful moral compass in this process. More about that later.

Touch

Webster's Dictionary defines touch as the ability to bring a bodily part into contact with another object so as to perceive through the tactile sense. The dictionary does a wonderful job of dehumanizing every aspect of an otherwise terrific sense. Seriously, when was the last time you used the word tactile in a sentence? Never? Well, remember it because it will come in extremely handy when you are trying to impress your college English professor with your unparalleled vocabulary in a few short months.

That reminds me. This brings us to the part of my address where I use really fancy words to impress the faculty and any corporate CEO type parents sitting in the audience, or in this case wherever you have your computer set up. Here goes:

As we stand juxtaposed on the periphery of an unforgiving future, I would like to remind you that this state of imbroglio that society finds itself embroiled in is not of a rhapsodic nature. These pernicious iconoclasts who so eloquently ingratiate themselves into our perception of society is intended only to shift the paradigm we are in. The solution is pineapple.

Translation: we are living in a society that is becoming more secularized with each passing day.

But what about pineapple? I had to include that word to impress my eighth grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Hanson. For you see, after going to great lengths to prepare me for the county spelling bee, she witnessed me misspell one of the more simple words in the competitive spelling pantheon. P-I-N-E-A-P-P-L-E. Pineapple. Mrs. Hanson, wherever you are, I did it!

Back to touch. Touch others. Reach out to those who need your help. Share part of what God has blessed you with, with those who are less fortunate. God has given you so much, each and everyone of you. This may be hard to fathom when you are completing an academic career that featured a 2.3 grade point average, or you are driving an old jalopy that won't even make it to the end of your street. But even so, God can use you to touch the lives of others. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." By committing your life to God, He will provide you with incredible opportunities to express kindness, generosity, and goodness. Touch others.

Smell

For many of you, smell has already played a prominent role throughout your academic career. The smell of overly ripe gym socks in your locker, the scent of an overpriced carnation your date wore to the prom, or your well meaning friend Stan who seems to have an aversion to showering.

Smell, take in, absorb. Become aware of everything around you. It is difficult to become a productive citizen in your community if you are not aware of situations and policies that could have a great impact on you. Smell things out. Educate yourself on the issues. Imagine a world without the ability to smell. You would not be able to take in the warm aroma of your mother's homemade bread cooking, or enjoy the radiating fragrance of a rose. But more importantly you would not be able to smell out inaccuracies as they pertain to your moral code of ethics.

Noted author and literary icon Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

More recently, business tycoon Donald Trump has said repeatedly, "You're fired."

These two quotes come from two very different people from contrasting eras. While Emerson's sentiments are much more inspiring, Trump's are more realistic. So often in commencement addresses, the keynote speaker implores graduates to chase their dreams and to shake fruit from untapped trees. It sounds great but is it real?

The ability to be real is a common thread that so many of us can identify with. Why then do commencement speakers often refer to the words of those who are long since dead, people who lived in an era devoid of YouTube, iPads, iPods, texting, Facebook, or are so rich that they have no context for the plight of ordinary, star spangled, graduating seniors.

In essence, can they relate? In an effort to provide you, the graduate, with the most valuable, time tested advice that I could find, I canvassed a panel of experts who live in the ordinary world … or at least most of the time.

From yours truly, "Never turn down a free lunch when it is offered to you."

Brenda suggests, "Dream big dreams, and buy durable stuff that will last a long time, like Longaberger baskets."

Lana says, "When in doubt, dance like you've never danced before."

And finally, Chase offers, "Look above for the answers below."

Taste

Taste is a remarkable sense that God has given each and every one of you, unless of course you have permanently burned your tongue on hot Mexican food. In fact, it becomes critically important if you take my advice about a free lunch seriously. For this sense, I would like to refer to a passage of scripture found in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 34:8, King David writes, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" The ability to taste is an invitation from God. If you are obedient to Him, you can't help but discover all of the wonderful things that He has in store for you. Tasting His goodness on a daily basis is better than any meal you will ever eat. Better than McDonalds, better than Subway, and yes, even better than Olive Garden.

I would like to conclude my remarks today by charging both you the graduates and your parents. I will begin with parents. Mom and Dad, I realize that you are under a lot of pressure right now regarding the gift you have either given or about to give your child for their academic achievement. You have undoubtedly received a litany of requests from your dutiful son or daughter as to what the appropriate reward should be. I am sure your fine young scholar has campaigned for everything from iPads to laptop computers to cold, hard cash. These are fine expressions of love indeed. But I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that these expressions of love will get broken, be superceded by new technology, and eventually become part of a garage sale in the summer of 2023. In fact, the only gift that remains from the day I graduated from high school and can even remember for that matter is a tattered old Bible that was given me by my church family on that first day of the rest of my life more than 20 years ago. I have carried and read it through the good times and the times that I wished would just go away. But it has been there through it all and I consider it to be the greatest gift I have ever received. It is a valuable friend. Do your child a favor today and make sure they have a Bible before they leave home for college, career, or the military. They will thank you for it, if not today, somewhere down the road on that thousand mile journey that begins with one step.

My charge to you, graduates, is simply to read that Bible. Many of you are undoubtedly scoffing as I write these words. You may be saying, "It's a great idea but I don't have time for it right now." I understand. But there will come a day, a dark day, when you will be searching for answers in your life, wondering why nothing seems to be going right for you. Those big dreams that you thought would come so easily seem like they are a thousand miles away. It is then, that this gift will become your lifeline. I encourage you to flip through its chapters, crease the pages, wear it out. It is your blueprint, it will serve as your guide on your life's journey that I am confident will be productive, fruitful, and above all, one that makes a difference for the glory of God.

I will close today with a scripture verse that one of the dear old saints, a woman who meant so much to my life, shared with me on numerous occasions in her Sunday School class many years ago.

Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

So can you.

Thank you, and God Bless.

Information used in this article from The Transformer Study Bible.

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