Peeling potatoes for shepherd’s pie watching the rain advance from the south across the peanut field on the other side of the road. I began thinking about what I’d share in a graduation speech. Probably because we’re joined in battle with our daughter to get through summer school biology so she’ll be at grade level in the Fall. Much Like I did in Coach Natvig’s summer algebra class in high school before my senior year. And, yes, I had to go to the yearbook to see if I remembered the name. Coasted through with a “C.” And graduated on time in spite of myself.
Graduation speeches are about “as you are, I was, and as I am, you will be, and, if you’re interested, let me tell you what’s in between or how to get to where I am or wherever you think you want to be.”
There are three inextricably life lessons I would share.
The first is from the sermon on the mount: to inherit the kingdom of earth, love your neighbor as yourself. Interestingly, an early lesson taken to heart from vacation Bible school and a discussion in Sunday school last weekend. That means following the golden rule of “do unto others” and not the contemporary golden rule, “whoever has the gold make the rules.”
The second was in a Weekly Reader story in 6th grade reporting about the death of Dag Hammarskjold. In his family Bible which survived the crash was found a handwritten message which said, “Live your life such that, in your final moment, when all others are weeping, you alone are without a tear to shed.” Later, that message was underscored by Frost’s The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” And by Berra’s “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.” Knowing that you can’t go back, second-guessing is a counterproductive exercise in futility.
The third was imparted by my squadron top sergeant, Chief Master Sgt. Calvin Pruitt. In the mid 60s, the CMS was a 30-year-veteran of the Army Air Force and its successor who’d come out of Tennessee, if memory serves, with the greatest generation work ethic and wisdom you don’t find in formal schooling. I had a major decision to make. The advice to his 18-year-old airman was simply, “Dee, you make your bed, you’re the one who has to lie in it.” It’s my choice and there are consequences which are mine alone for the road taken at every fork.
Those three life lessons in the 12 minutes allocated to me at the dais, standing between the students and the conferring of degrees. Truth be told, I’d rather be in the audience bouncing the omnipresent beach ball, shooting photos of the crowd with my iPhone or surreptitiously blowing bubbles with my LED Light Up Bubble Gun before it’s confiscated.