I only had 5-6 minutes, or I would have said more. Reveille was blessed to host this baccalaureate, and it was fun to be a part of it. A special thanks to Susan Creasy for arranging it.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
You made it. You did it. You’re here. At last. For those who raised you, this is at once one of the greatest and worst days of their lives, especially if you are a first-born and certainly if you are an only child. This is uncharted territory, and everyone is doing their best, making it up as they go along. It is a little exciting, as well as a little frightening.
If you are a youngest child, chances are, your parents have already packed half of your stuff. Some of it may already be in the car you took to get here tonight. For you, as far as your parents are concerned, August cannot come soon enough. You mother has been on Pinterest, reading about “Fifty Fabulous Ways to Decorate A Guest Room” and your father has probably been shopping for convertibles, or at least, an electric guitar.
They should. They have earned it.
Let me remind you that these are the people who each and every morning had to annoy you nearly to death in order to get you out of bed in the morning and off to school for the last thirteen years. These are the people who checked your homework, went to your performances, picked you up from practice, cheered for you until it embarrassed you, who told you “I do not care if all of the other kids were doing it, that does not mean it is OK for you, who do you think you are, you are not leaving the house wearing that, as long as you live under my roof then you will live by my rules, don’t you backtalk me, I heard that, yes you have to, no you cannot, because I said so, I’m the boss applesauce, so do what I say and don’t give me any lip.”
In other words, they became the most annoying people in the world to you.
Yet, they did it all for good reason. They did it because we do not raise children as much as we forge them out of iron, keeping the temperature hot, pounding and pounding and shaping and forming and then cooling it in the water, and then it is back to the fire, and then back to the anvil. Bang, bang, bang.
They did this for all of these years, not because they are control-freak, maniacal sadists but because they love you and because like any good artist, they could see beauty and form and potential in you, a finished product that you could not yet see.
And now you are graduating. You are adults. Parents, say it to yourself. Get used to it. “I am the parent of an adult.” Weird, isn’t it, and bet it all came sooner than you thought it would when these young people were born and you wrapped your life around theirs.
And now, class of 2016, it is your turn with the hammer, with the anvil, with the iron, for it is your turn to forge a new and better world, to see form and beauty and potential in places where the world only perceived hard, cold, iron. In his Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writes, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability, but it comes from the tireless efforts of women and men willing to be coworkers with God.” Sisters and brothers, that now means you.
For all of the condescending bluster said about young people today, I want to tell you what old people like me, like you teachers, like your parents do not say enough. We do not say it perhaps because it reminds us too much of our own generation’s shortcomings. We do not say it, perhaps because we are afraid of what it will mean for the world if we are wrong. We do not say it enough, but we need to say it more and loudly and now:
You are the ones the world has been waiting for. You are the ones the world has been waiting for because what too often seems to generations before you to be but a dream to you seems like possibility, like reality, within your very grasp.
And that is why I speak as though the world is at stake in each of you and the choices that you make. Because it is. Each of you must go forth from this place to live and love and serve and and courageously fight for ideals that are still worth dying for: peace and justice, mercy and equality, love and life and the freedom to live in a world where each child of God may be who God designed and created each of us to be, fearfully and wonderfully made, just as we are.
So be the artists of social change you were created to be. Pound your hammer, forge the world of which you dream. Go into the world. Go and speak. Go and act. Change everything. Create the world, the masterpiece, of which your ancestors dared to dream. Make the rest of us uncomfortable. Be annoying. Never settle. And may your light burn so brightly that all people may see a better world by the brightness of your light.