Monday, May 18, 2009

For Anyone Who Ever Graduated From Anywhere

This time of year, colleges and high schools are graduating their students. We're even graduating our Child Enrichment Center children this month.

If you've ever graduated from anywhere, you've been subjected to a commencement address of some kind. Usually, the speech is an attempt to speak a word of "wisdom" to the graduating class, who already think they know more than the speaker.

A couple of years ago, Betsy, my daughter, graduated from Citadel with a Masters Degree. We went down for the weekend. The commencement address was interminable. The man giving it was a great man; that was obvious. But, he was dull. Now you might argue that dull or not, the grads aren't really listening. Many of the parents were napping.

Hey, I'm a public speaker of sorts; so, I'm not going to let cynicism win out here. I remember that my high commencement speaker said this: "50% of us are willing to work hard; and the other 50% are willing to let us." The point being: work hard.

I remember the words from my Newberry College address which said that we learned what we learned to help others.

I ran across a wonderful article in a recent USA Today. Cristina Negrut claims to have surveyed some 700 speeches on the internet, and only about 20 were inspiring. Her website is

Here are the top then quotes that she listed. They are pretty good wisdom for grads and the rest of us, too. See what you think?

1. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, Stanford, 2005.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

2. Jerry Zucker, film director/producer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003.

It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.

3. Marc S. Lewis, clinical psychology professor, University of Texas Austin, 2000.

There are times when you are going to do well, and times when you're going to fail. But neither the doing well, nor the failure is the measure of success. The measure of success is what you think about what you've done. Let me put that another way: The way to be happy is to like yourself and the way to like yourself is to do only things that make you proud.

4. David Foster Wallace, novelist, Kenyon College, 2005.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

5. John Walsh, author and art historian, Wheaton College, 2000.

Do one thing at a time. Give each experience all your attention. Try to resist being distracted by other sights and sounds, other thoughts and tasks, and when it is, guide your mind back to what you're doing.

6. Michael Uslan, film producer, Indiana University, 2006.

You must have a high threshold for frustration. Take it from the guy who was turned down by every studio in Hollywood. You must knock on doors until your knuckles bleed. Doors will slam in your face. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and knock again. It's the only way to achieve your goals in life.

7. David L. Calhoun, businessman, Virgina Tech, 2005.

The lust for learning is age-independent.

8. Earl Bakken, businessman, University of Hawaii, 2004.

By all reckoning, the bumblebee is aerodynamically unsound and shouldn't be able to fly. Yet, the little bee gets those wings going like a turbo-jet and flies to every plant its chubby little body can land on to collect all the nectar it can hold. Bumblebees are the most persistent creatures. They don't know they can't fly, so they just keep buzzing around.

9. Bradley Whitford, actor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006.

We all go through life bristling at our external limitations, but the most difficult chains to break are inside us.

10. Woody Hayes, football coach, Ohio State University, 1986.

You'll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face. Never.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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