commencement, lifelong learning, personal growth

Commencement: A Beginning not an Ending

Commencement: A Beginning not an Ending

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of

Iíve probably heard more commencement addresses than anyone who is not a teacher or college professor. They were a part of my high school, college, medical school and residency graduation ceremonies. Iíve listened to speeches given as friends and relatives have reached similar milestones. As a member of our local Board of Education I attended commencement exercises annually for many years.

Iíve listened to a great number of speeches over the years, but I donít remember the content of any of them. Perhaps itís that nothing memorable was said. Maybe itís that I was always too caught up in the excitement of the moment to pay attention. Itís also possible that Iíve picked up a few things and simply donít remember the context in which I first heard them.

Iíve been invited back to my high school to speak at the commencement ceremony this year. Given my own experience I could take comfort in assuming that it doesnít matter what I say, since virtually no one will remember it by the time the last graduate has crossed the platform and the class has thrown their caps into the air. On the other hand, I have a unique opportunity to touch peopleís lives at a critical juncture.

Given that awesome responsibility I dare not take the call lightly. I must choose my words carefully and thoughtfully knowing that if I make a difference in just one life that evening I could be affecting the entire world. Who can say what positions the members of the graduating class will hold in the future? After all, who would have expected a United States President to hail from Plains, Georgia, a town of less than 600 people?

So what will I tell them, the new graduates with their assembled friends and relatives? Some of the same things that I attempt to instill in my radio listeners and in you, my valued subscribers. Things that go beyond the minutia of which vitamin or herb to use when facing a particular challenge. Things that go to the heart of living a healthy life.

The first thing that I am going to tell them is that commencement represents a beginning, not an ending. The graduates are being recognized for a level of achievement, yes, but more than that they are being asked move forward to even greater heights.

If we wish to achieve better health we each do the same. The statement, ďToday is the first day of the rest of your life,Ē is true. Each new morning is a commencement, an opportunity to do better, to soar higher, and grow more richly than we did the day before. There is no such thing as standing still in life. Either we are moving forward or we are falling back. Either our health is improving or it is declining. When we believe that we have arrived it is quite likely that what appears to be a stable platform is actually a diving board from which we will fall with just one misstep.

The second thing that I will tell them is that they need to determine their destination before they chart their course. Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying, ďIf you donít know where youíre going youíre liable to wind up someplace else.Ē Too many people drift though life blown to and fro by every change in direction of the prevailing wind. Only those who have taken the time to set clear goals are able to recognize when they are being driven off course. They can then make any adjustments necessary to keep moving toward their chosen objective.

The next thing I will tell them is that, whether they realize it or not, they are and always will be self-employed. To think that they work for someone else is the worst mistake anyone can ever make. They may be performing a job for someone else for which they are paid an agreed upon wage, but they have leased themselves to that company or individual by choice, not by force.

The only person standing in the way if you would like a different future is your true employer, you yourself. You simply need to recognize that just as you chose your current situation, you can choose to change it at any time. You may have to serve out the time remaining on your present contract, but you can begin laying the foundation you will need to build a brighter future immediately.

I will tell the people assembled that they should be lifelong learners. I will acquaint them with the four stages of knowledge of which I wrote in the November 1999 issue. I will encourage them to never become too self-assured to discover that there are still important aspects about their chosen career and life in general which they donít know.

I will strive to teach them that there are no limits on what they can accomplish, if they will only dream big dreams, apply their energies to the task, and never, ever quit. I will ask them to reach for the moon, for if they miss they will wind up among the stars.

Finally, I will remind everyone that it is never too late. One never fails by stumbling or even by falling, only by failing to get up and start afresh. It is never too late to make a new beginning. It is never too late to decide what you want to do with the rest of our life, never too late to take responsibility for making it happen. It is never too late to learn something new and it is never too late to shoot for the moon. You can achieve your greatest dream, if only you will.

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