The lilacs have bloomed and are smelling sweet. Baby birds are being born and for many, this is the time of year when students of all ages graduate from one stage of their lives to the next. Regionally, from Oxford to Goodrich, down through Brandon and Clarkston and over to Lake Orion, there will be over 1,700 high school graduates walking through commencements. Some ceremonies will take place in football stadiums, others at outdoor amphitheaters like Pine Knob.
It’s a grand time, full of pomp and circumstance.
My son Sean walked through commencements May 6, at the Breslin Center, near the banks of the Red Cedar in East Lansing. There were 1,200 students, parents, friends, family, faculty and more jammed in there that morning as Sean walked. He’s in the College of Social Sciences studying history. The way students received their “token” diploma (a rolled up piece of thick white paper with a ribbon) was each student’s name was read aloud. Students were seated by their specific field of study like economics, political science, history, etc.
One by one, all 1,200 students were named, then they were handed their diploma. Sean was number 1,196 to receive his rolled up piece of white paper. We texted him stating since he was so far back in line, he should work on being the very last. He did not comply with that request.
At the start of the graduation line, I leaned over to his brother Shamus (who only has about one semester left of formal schooling) and said, “This may take a while.” That started me thinking: How long would it take to get through the last name. I started counting the number of seconds between when each name was announced: four seconds.
That’s when I used the handy-dandy Don Rush method of math, which never lets me down, and gets me in the ballpark when ciphering some numerical problem. My answers are usually right-ish.
Sitting there in those little plastic stadium seats I calculated 1,200 times four seconds equals 4,800. I divided that by 60 (seconds) and leaned back over to Shamus. “We should be finished in about 80 minutes.”
He gave me a dubious look, whipped out his cell phone, opened up his calculator app, double checked my math and then nodded his approval.
Why didn’t I use my cell phone’s calculator app?
* * *
One of the best parts of the ceremony was listening to one of the speakers, Dr. David Kelly. Afterwards, I looked him up. He’s the Chief Global Strategist and Head of the Global Market Insights Strategy Team for J.P. Morgan. He was raised in Dublin, Ireland, however, studied and graduated from Michigan State University. He also met his wife at MSU. I found myself nodding in approval during his speech. He encouraged graduates to respect themselves, respect others throughout their lives, respect their health and their finances.
“In the next few days, most of you will be clearing out dorm rooms and moving on to the next stage in your lives . . . As you are packing your suitcase, you’ll be checking drawers and closets and under beds for anything you’ve left behind. But just before you latch it shut, check one other thing: Make sure you have packed all your respect. Your respect for your mind, your judgment, your health and your wealth and everything else. But most of all, make sure to pack your self-respect. Then shut the suitcase, walk out the door and be amazing!”
I couldn’t agree more.
* * *
I couldn’t agree more, because though my very own father didn’t graduate from college, he gave a great deal of “speeches” about respect. Okay, okay. Yes, they were lectures and yes I deserved being lectured to. Funny thing, I’ve taken my dad’s lectures and given them to my sons and self-respect is right up there in the hierarchy of Don Rush ideals.
I told my sons after they graduated from high school, that they are really never done graduating. We are always graduating from one point in our lives to the next. From high school to adulthood. From living with mom and dad, to getting out in the world and making it “on your own.” You graduate from one success to the next. You graduate from one mistake to learning not to make that mistake again. You may graduate from being single to being married. Or from being married to being single. If we’re lucky, we graduate from being young to being old. And, finally we graduate from being to . . . the great unknown.
My father told me and I’m saying here, believing the world is fair is a sucker’s bet and if you believe that you’ll always end up with the short end of the proverbial stick. Work hard and honestly while you’re young and chances are by the time you’re ready you will be at the top of where you want to be.
While you’re younger, set your course. Ask yourself, “Self, where do I want to be in 10, 20, 30 years?” Set that goal as your Northern Star. As you venture through life, navigating sometimes through turbulent waters, you can veer off your course. It will happen. But, as long as you can look up into the heavens and find your North Star, you can always tack back on course to get to your destination.
And, graduates of all ages and all stages of life, do it with respect. First with respect for yourself and then the lives around you.
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