This is the time of year when graduation ceremonies abound. Today it appears everyone—even preschoolers, gets a certificate, prizes and kudos.
With so many events, I assume there's a shortage of commencement speakers. Institutions of higher learning sometimes count on keynoters who have a connection to a particular school or course of study, but long ago even the best bodies of academic brilliance began to opt for any big name celebrity as speaker. Cast members of the now defunct "Jersey Shore" reality show come to mind.
It is with all of this background that I decided to write today's column as a universal graduation speech. I'm not worried about political correctness either. This is something that works with nearly every age group, although some of the bigger words may need to be adjusted so that younger children (and many members of Congress) can understand. So, here is my all-purpose message to the Class of 2013….
To the Class of 2013, parents, loved ones, faculty and administrators, union representatives, government regulators, OSHA and EPA bureaucrats—welcome. And congratulations on a job well done.
Ray Kroc, the man who took McDonald's from a little store owned by a couple of brothers in Southern California to a billions-and-gazillions-sold fast food powerhouse often said, "When you're green you're growing, when you're ripe you rot."
He was right, of course. But I feel the need to remind you he meant "green" as in "new and inexperienced, eager to learn more." He did not mean you work to minimize your carbon footprint and have solar-powered everything, recycling and not exhaling toxic carbon dioxide (a little something for you EPA people there).
Mr. Kroc's point was: Don't assume you are now "ripe" and accomplished. Ever. Ripe tomatoes, for example, have a short shelf life, eventually being thrown at bad speakers (no offense to you politicians in the audience). Greener ones ripen slowly, and are usable much longer. So stay eager, fresh and always learning—"green"—and you will grow. When you grow, you see every day in a fresh new way, ready to take on whatever opportunities arise… in spite of challenges that are a part of life.
Too many students get to this point, grab the diploma and stop learning. While a break now and then helps air out the brain, do not yield to laziness as so many students do. You know the attitude: I will never read anything again. I am sick of reading for school. Party on!
I have abulletin for you: your fellow students who stay green, eagerly learning, and have developed a skill for reading on their own—for fun—no matter what the subject, THOSE students (yes, the geeks) get the jobs. A little time off at the beach is great. Just don't make a career of it. That does not include you lifeguards who make some sweet money and pensions in many cities.
One of the best disciplines you can have in life is this: READ. Read something all the time. Have reading material all over where you live. Read online, and most importantly read material that will help you grow, not rot your head, heart and soul.
My family knows I can't watch TV without having magazines, a couple of newspapers and a book handy. I feel guilty if I just sit and watch TV while doing nothing else. It takes a rare program to command that attention from me.
I am also high tech with a Nook and iPad with more information and bookmarked websites. And with today's technology, the iPhone ensures I never get stuck anyplace without something to read.
Read often. Renew yourself. Relax in knowing most people do not do this. That makes you SPECIAL and more productive and competitive. It also makes you smarter by using more of that gray matter God created between yours ears.
Be sure to read plenty of the "God stuff," not just on Sundays. Pray often. Keep short accounts with God, always in conversation when you can. And yes, that WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) slogan is a great reminder, too.
I love having numerous Bible translations and paraphrases of the Old and New Testament available on my electronic devices, all searchable at a moment's notice. Some daily devotionals are also essential, for quick shots of Divine Energy. I like the ones that show up in my daily email inbox, early every morning.
Above all, never forget what's most important in this life: God, who created you. Your parents, (no matter how dysfunctional families may be), who have given you life. And family members need support where appropriate, plus plenty of prayers.
When you roll out of bed each morning, ask yourself, "How can I use what God has given me today, to glorify him as my thanks, and to grow and inspire others as I pursue my goals in life?"
Stay green. Grow. Help others get where they want to go. Appreciate every moment, and don't take blessings for granted. And let God make you what He wants you to be, every day.
So, congratulations on your graduation from this chapter of your life. This is only a beginning. That's why we call this commencement. Now, get on with it. God bless you all.
Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. His voice is heard on KPRZ 1210AM, and his weekday talkshow airs mornings 6-9 on KCBQ 1170AM. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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