Graduates, parents, faculty and staff, distinguished guests: It’s a rare privilege to be invited to deliver the commencement address for eighth-grade graduation. And since you didn’t invite me, I am going to commence to deliver my speech right here in this column, whether you like it or not.
Just think how far you’ve come, graduates. Why, some of you live clear on the other side of town! But here you are, gathered with friends and family, to celebrate your academic achievement. All your hard work has led to this moment, and now your mind swirls with so many questions: Have I done my best? Where will I go to school next year? How much money is in all those graduation cards lying on the dining room table at home?
I know there were times when doubts and fears seemed about to overtake you. But now you realize that no matter how awful the cafeteria food looked and tasted, you would survive.
I notice that your class motto is “Get bread, soy milk, and toilet paper.” Oh, excuse me—those are the items I’m supposed to pick up on my way home. I jotted your class motto in the other margin: “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.” There’s power in that motto, for sure.
I asked a few of you to jot down some of your dreams. Vashonne Adams wrote: “My dream is to be rich and famous.” Of course, not everyone shares the same dream. Eric Whitman wrote: “My dream is to be famous and rich.” Still another member of the graduating class, Erin Rickley,
wrote: “The dream I remember most is where I was at summer camp and my counselor turned out to be Bigfoot. He shed hair all over the cabin floor. It was awful!”
Yes, your dreams may all be different, but you must relentlessly pursue them! Hey, wait a minute—I just thought of a memory verse I once learned: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, KJV).
Uh-oh. What if God’s path is different from your “dream path”? Looks like you might need to be a little flexible on that point.
But now, eighth-grade graduating class, in closing I offer a slightly altered (and somewhat sexist) version of the classic poem “The Village Blacksmith,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I hope you’ll find it meaningful as you look forward to your high school years.
The High School Principal
Under a spreading chestnut tree
The high school principal stands;
The principal, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear him bellow and blow;
You can hear him swing his office door,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the ninth-period bell,
When the evening sun is low.
Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
Onward through the school day he goes;
Each morning sees some task begun,
Each evening sees it close.
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my principal friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the next flaming report card
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on such page will be revealed
What my folks’ tuition payments have bought.
Congratulations, graduates, and may all of God’s dreams for you come true.