CLERGY CORNER: Commencement Inspiration

Posted on 24 May 2018 by LeslieM

I was privileged last week to attend two commencement events at which the speakers offered inspiring messages for the graduating students. A recurrent theme among the speeches was the fact that we can accomplish far more than what some may expect based upon perceived limitations or barriers. Just because you may be at a disadvantage doesn’t mean that you cannot succeed. A challenge will demand one of two responses from you: fear and resignation or courage and determination. We get to choose and thereby control what the outcome will be.

One of the events was a graduation ceremony for students involved in an entrepreneurial program that is designed to give them the necessary skills to bring their product or service ideas to reality. The keynote speaker was impressive. She has been suffering from seizures since childhood but has not allowed it to stop her from excelling in business and entrepreneurship, leading several organizations, and winning awards along the way. She currently serves as president of a foundation that aims to help children succeed in school and in life. She encouraged the aspiring entrepreneurs to be mindful of others as they strove for their dreams.

The other event was a high school commencement at a packed Palm Beach County Fairgrounds auditorium. One of the valedictorians challenged her fellow graduates to not allow anyone to limit their potential. She referenced a fellow student who was told early on that his unfamiliarity with the English language would prevent him from graduating. That student did indeed graduate, with honors! The valedictorian drew inspiration from her grandfather, who had come alone to America as a young man from Panama. He worked hard to establish himself and was able to produce a family and pass along strong values of faith, commitment and dedication. He would have been proud of his ivy-league university bound granddaughter.

It is encouraging to hear such optimism and hope directed to and arising from our youth. A steady diet of news headlines can lead to depression if you allow the world to be defined by media alone. Yes, there is evil and sadness around us, but there is far more good and joy to be found as well. Consider the laughter of an infant, the smiles of a bride and groom, or the excited chatter of graduating students. There is hope and expectation and promise all around us. The challenges that confront us should not be allowed to produce fear in us. They should serve to stimulate the courage to change the outcomes. We can do better as individuals and society, and we should strive to do better.

Jesus challenged His followers to live their lives with a focus on the good. They had turned to God and embraced His light, and, in turn, Jesus proclaimed them to be the light of the world. As they lived in simple faith and followed His instructions, they would be an example and inspiration to others. He further urged, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). God is well pleased when we seek to develop the potential that He has placed within all of us. We should all be inspired to be our best, to live our best, and to produce our best. God stands ready to assist us if we will yield to His way. The wisdom of Proverbs 37:5 advises, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2018. May God’s hand guide you, and His grace surround you as you pursue your dreams.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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