Not long time ago, you were the enthusiastic graduates of high school, excited to go to college; then not long after that you found yourselves in this graduation, about to go and serve the world.
Before you go, I would like to remind you of two things that made you what you are now and which you will need in order for you to become.
First, I believe you live the words of Thomas Edison, the father of more than a thousand inventions. He is the one who made this saying famous: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. The values here are patience and commitment.
Some of you did not start with your finished course now. Perhaps the course that you finish now was the only alternative left. Or perhaps it is the choice of your parents, or perhaps what you think is most lucrative. But because of the meaningful experiences in your school you decided to stay and finish you course. There are those who really had your finished course now as your first love. Whatever is your story, there is Patience, and there is Commitment in finishing the course. The same Patience and Commitment will help you become real people. You need Patience and Commitment in working with people.
Secondly, you are graduating now because of your maturity. You have indeed matured, at least that I would like to believe. A sign of maturity is when you can say and do what you know is right and responsible, regardless of what other people may say. Other people may have called you a “Big Fool” to have chosen your profession now. “You will not get rich”, “you will only get the disease and the problems of people, and you don’t get financial returns” may have been the comments that you have heard. You must have withstood all these comments. Thanks for your maturity, and such maturity is the reason why you are now graduating. You have accepted being called the “Big Fool”. In the greatest and noblest sense, the word “Fool” applies to you as it is often used to refer to those who do great things, used by people who cannot do the same. You are the greatest and the noblest when you decided to do what you think was good and responsible, and that is why you are now graduating.
As you become more mature, you will not be afraid to be alone at times, especially for the sake of something important and responsible. We need “Fools” like you today. “Fools” who are really willing to do great and small things for the rebuilding of the country. So don’t mind it at all if people laugh at you and call you a fool when you decided to take up your course, and you will decide to work here in our country, and not as a domestic helper in New York.
Another sign of maturity is when you become more and more concerned about other people and their well–being. This concern about other people which you have, otherwise you will not be graduating now, and which you should always have in order to become what you should be in your vocation, is needed to render meaningful service to other people.
A College graduate should not be a child again. To a child, everything centers around himself. His needs and wishes are all that matter. A child lets go of his feelings in a completely uncontrolled way. We watch without being surprised when a baby who is asked to share his toys clutches at them and bursts into tears if urged to give up such toys. For you now, it ought to be different. As you are about to change the world, the “I’s” who was all that mattered when you were babies become aware that there are other “I’s” who must be also be considered. I must cite to you what is considered one of the most important teachings of our Lord Jesus: Whoever would be great among you must be servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. I am sure this is not the concept of greatness for many people. It is the reverse. We Christians know this and we are in fact inspired by this. This teaching has become the guiding spirit of many great men and great women in history.
A classic example is Florence Nightingale. She enjoyed wealth, comfort, and ease, but she felt for the needs of their poor neighbors. She was deeply bothered by their misery and suffering and she could not stand the thought of it. In those days (1830″s), no decent woman would ever think of becoming a nurse as a profession. The hospitals were places of wretchedness and filth. But Florence was determined, she never forgot the words of her close friend who had told her: “It would be unusual, but I say to you ‘go forward’ if you have a vocation for that way of life. Act up to your inspiration and you would find that there is never anything unbecoming or unladylike in doing your duty for the good of others. Go on with it, wherever it may lead you, and God be with you. Now I would like also to give you the same inspiration. Go on with your vocation wherever it may lead you, and God be with you.
In your own profession or call it vocation, we have a number of Florence ’s. And as you say farewell to your school and to one another, it is with the challenge and a prayer for you to be really free and real people—to be free from a life centered in familiar routine, centered on the security of salaries and positions, and I pray that through Jesus our Lord, he will grant all of you the courage to be FREE. “Congratulations and Good Luck to all our graduates!