Yes, here we are in the midst of graduation season.
Members of the Class of 2012
Frothingham Park is one of the nicest settings for commencement ceremonies anywhere. OA grads are fortunate.
As I have done in the past, here I submit a column of recommendations and reflections for the grads.
What I emphasize, and the tack I take here, is different from that I have emphasized and taken in the past.
(Yet anything I have recommended in the past, I am still good with and supporting today.)
And, please, I’m not saying I understood any of this when I was your age – nor am I saying I practiced all of what I’m preaching here; although I have practiced some of it.
You see, I have been fortunate to have worked with and for winners and smart people – and good and caring people. I also like to read and ask questions.
I pay attention to the lives of the successful and high achievers.
So let’s start with this.
You are not owed anything – not a single, solitary thing.
If you grew up in Easton, the chances are that you grew up living the good life. Yes, that’s right – on the whole – things are really good here.
So many of you have become young adults figuring that your birthright is money for a car, pizza, designer labels, mobile phones, video games, spring break, a blowout sweet 16 party (along with the organizing and planning), college tuition and room and board … and who knows what else.
Things don’t work like throughout the world – not even in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Among the people who have been most influential in history, who have changed things, who have made things better, and who built towering organizations, movements, and even societies, are those who had were born into the most meager circumstances, who were handed next to nothing (or nothing), who had to battle and scrape for everything, who lost and were defeated over and over and over – and they used, channeled, and steered all the setback and discomfort into the positive and something good.
You college grads – here is something I didn’t understand when I graduated from Boston College in 1985.
That is – and this ties back to nothing is owed you – that the natural ebb and flow and order of the world is not that you graduate and then you land a job with a company, and get paid a nice salary which comes with a nice benefit package.
You see, and I didn’t really appreciate all those years ago that companies are not spontaneously created. They don’t just grow and blossom from nowhere.
The genesis of most companies is a load of risk and angst and long hours. Companies are the product of hard, hard work – and then more hard work.
I will also tell you this. Those people who create those companies – and I say here, “Sorry grads” – but there was a long stretch of time in which they were not focused on hiring you. What they were focused on is the bank not taking their house, and figuring on how to make payroll for three employees, and sweating and wringing their hands hoping and praying for that order that would buy the company another month.
Also, hear this – be nice to people. Really. I adore that bumper sticker: “Mean People Suck.” They sure do.
Always be courteous. Open doors. Say thank you. When you receive good service at a restaurant, tip the waiter/waitress at least 20 percent.
If you can help someone, and you know someone who can help that person, then pick up the phone and make a call. Stand up for someone weak who is being taken advantage of. Say hello. Smile. Let someone in to traffic. Check on your neighbor.
None of this is heroic. None of this makes you great. But if more of us do the little things – and we knit all of these small gestures and niceties together, then that fabric of kindness gets larger and makes the world better.
Also get a hold of the emotion, if you can call it that, because it is so much more powerful than that – and what I refer to is love. Love. LOVE. LoVe. love. Write it any way you want.
Love can ennoble and bring us happiness that is indescribable. It can make everything complete. Energy it ignites and fuels can drive us to accomplish beyond the wildest of imagination and hope and belief.
But, know this, as well – that love and passion can undo and corrupt the most focused and dedicated of lives. When love and passion is unrequited it is painful – but one must be on guard against it destroying you.
Also be ever reflective and conscientious about what and whom you love. You get it wrong on any of these fronts – and if you continue to love what is not good for you, and that which is wrong for your soul, then you set the table for anguish and defeat.
Love what is positive and enriching – and give to it over and over, forever, with fidelity, with enthusiasm – and you will not leave this earth without accomplishing something enduring, indomitable, and ever renewing.
Find a passion. Find something makes you feel good and to which you will devote effort and hard work – and such is the marrow and essence of that passion that none of it ever seems like much of an effort, or much of hard work.
What is the “stuff” of passion? You define it.
An immersion in the wonder of math and calculation and figuring out a problem – is that your passion?
Perhaps it is gardening. Or … or …
Coaching. Teaching. Painting. Writing. Calligraphy. Software code. Public speaking. Fly fishing. Medicine. Scientific research. Masonry. Boating. Travel. Photography.
Find your passion. You find and embrace a passion – and this passion will improve and make lighter the day no matter your socioeconomic status in life.
Check these stats – which I have found at the UNICEF website – and hold on to these stats even as you are dealing with the newest crisis in your life – that the Celtics are down 2-0 to the Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Half of the people on this planet live on $2.50 a day or less. Got that?
More than 20,000 children will die every day on our good planet Earth due to poverty.
About a billion people entered this century – you know, that century that commenced 12 years ago – unable to read a book or sign their name.
Remember, always, and be thankful for – and express that thanks to – the most noble and brave of our society – the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
If you are soon off to boot camp – or are serving, or have served – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Allow me to round back to earlier in this column – and I say it again: nothing is owed you.
Go out and build a life.
Treasure the gift of life – and be thankful for all that you have.
And don’t squander the advantages you have been given, and those which have accrued to you.
Give back. Work hard. Love. Battle for what is right. Reach out to someone who has fallen, and pull that person up.
Day in and day out be about positive energy and making – one decision, one deed, and one gift at time – the place in this planet in which you live better and nicer and happier.
This you can do.