Some years ago, I was honored to deliver the commencement address for a Colorado high school. I was thrilled to be asked and they were thrilled to be graduating. I didn’t really expect that I—or my words that day—would be remembered.
My goal was to deliver a feeling on that day that would be remembered long after the tassels were turned. And that is my hope for you here.
I want to be one of the first to tell you that you are the hope of the future.
Because you are, you know, even if it has become avant-garde to tell graduating seniors that there is no future. The future is coming, without a doubt, and no graduation celebration would be complete without the assurance that the future is you.
Each class of graduating seniors is handed the mantle of future civic responsibility. And it’s what you choose to do—individually and collectively—with that responsibility that will set you apart.
In 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, you will see this to be correct. There is nothing you can do to hold this responsibility in abeyance.
It will happen, and it will happen to you.”
That’s why I’m taking today to remind you of the responsibility to make the future happen, not just let it happen to you. Reach into yourselves and rely on the competence, courage and resilience that, after all, have brought you to this day.
You are being presented with a greater variety of choices than most of the rest of us were handed. But these opportunities don’t mean that the world is an easier place for you. The issues facing young people today are some of the most serious in the modern history of the world.
Take a moment to reflect on the renewed nuclear threat under which we live, as nations around the world continue their saber-rattling. When your children stand where you stand today, will you want someone to saying these words to them?
Human rights—the rights of people as human beings—is an issue that’s not going away, an issue that’s getting worse that you must tackle as future leaders.”
As graduates, just as your own range of choices is broadening, there are people in the world who have no choices, who have no voices in their governments, or even in their own lives. As a free people, we must speak for those who cannot.
Today, you are among the most heralded and envied group of young people in our communities. Today, you are graduating seniors who have plans for the next couple of weeks that make my head spin.
But, tomorrow—what will you be? Not a high school student. Not a college student. Many of you will be unemployed.
Tomorrow, though, you can start that reach into yourselves—no matter what odds you find stacked against you—to begin lives of wise choices, self-reliance, and accomplishments that will not only benefit you, but those around you. And when we are able to choose our own paths, we are not wasting one precious drop of ambition, one beam of enlightenment.
Dear Graduates, congratulations on your achievement. Congratulations, too, to your parents, teachers, coaches, friends, employers, mentors who helped you to that podium.
I know this to be true: each of you will contribute to the future in ways you can’t begin to fathom today.”
Best of luck to you all.
A little more about the author…
Andrea Doray is a Denver- area writer who believes there is great beauty in potential. Visit her profile on LinkedIn.
This essay originally appeared in the Arvada Press and the affiliated newspapers of Our Colorado News, and is used here with permission.