Tuesday, December 22, 2009

still holds true...

Upon graduating from Juniata College in 2008 I had the privilege of delivering  the commencement address.  Lately, I find myself returning to the quotes I used in my speech for daily inspiration.  Thought I would share my message with you...

Dr. Andrus once said…
The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live. 
Class of 2008, Juniata Administration and Faculty, friends and family this very quote was scribbled down amongst many others in a letter sent to me by my grandmother that echoed the theme of giving. As I debated what to say today I knew my grandmother might have the answer after all she has pretty good advice concerning dating and she was the one who has shook her head at me when I came home from my 13 mile runs and told me I was hurting myself. Wouldn’t you know it a few weeks later I was out for the season with a stress fracture. It only makes sense that I would turn to her to help guide me today.
Standing in front of you is a humbling experience, I look up to you because of your many achievements. Many of you are much smarter, more athletic, more artistic, than I ever can be, but regardless, together we have a combined wealth of talent that is our responsibility to use in ways that are bigger than ourselves. When we reflect on our past four years here we can all say that we helped our school community and our fellow classmates in some way that brought us joy. From over 100+ student volunteers during the fall sectional of the Special Olympics held on our campus to everyone who participated for Relay for Life. Each of us gave of ourselves. 
So you, like Dr. Andrus and my grandmother too hold the essential ingredient to life-- which is the gift of giving. Even though Dr. Andrus is not a house a hold name like Bill Gates or Oprah her life is not diminished just because we do not recognize her name nor will any of yours by continuing to give to others during the course of your life after graduation. You see none of us, including Dr. Andrus need to be on television to have a profound affect on the life of another.
I would like to tell you a story of the power of only a few dollars and a small coffee shop, you might have heard of it, Starbucks. A customer, who noticed the person behind them was not having the best day, told the cashier that they would be paying for the person behind them too. Without knowing it the customer who paid for both coffees started a chain reaction for the rest of the day. One lady in the Florida Starbucks was so surprised that someone would offer such a random act of kindness that she thought she was on Candid Camera.
This concept of “paying it forward “- giving without expecting anything in return has had a powerful affect on me. So today each senior is receiving a Starbucks gift card for five dollars. Please let this be a tangible metaphor for how to continue or even start a life of giving. In the coming weeks as we disperse across the U.S., and for that matter the world, I ask you to find a Starbucks and start making a difference with the card you were given today. I challenge you to walk into Starbuck, buy yourself a drink with your own money, but then hand the card to the customer behind you.
Sure- you might be tempted not to do this. What does five dollars or a cup of joe mean to anyone anyway you might be thinking?
Well just think back to last weekend when we came together for a benefit concert and were asked to chip in a few bucks to help a fellow student’s brother who is suffering from cancer. We must start a tradition of giving in both time and money, because as you see even the smallest act can make a big difference in someone’s life, and for that matter your own, and I hope the Starbucks card will serve as a starting point.
The last four years we have been immersed in a culture that is rich in tradition. When the going get tough and you stressed out in a few months about life and find yourself eating Ramen again, I encourage you to take your reinvent Mt. Day and give of yourself to help someone in need. Remember, the essential ingredient in life is the gift of giving by helping others and remember you are somebody special and important, even if you’re not famous for doing so.
Class of 2008, a quote that I live by daily is one by the late distance runner Steve Prefontaine. He once said, “To give anything less than you best is to sacrifice the gift.” His words resonate with me because in our lives so far we have been told to do our best no matter what by not giving our all we waste our gifts.
And in the stressful years ahead we will be told time and time again to work the 70 hour work week just to meet deadlines. But what is this all for? Just to add a few more digits to the pay check? What Prefontaine emphasizes is that we don’t give up in life, that we weather the storms because if we give up we are truly wasting our gifts. My friends, I wish you my very best, continue to strive for greatness, if we learn to use our gifts for the betterment of each other than the legacy of the Class of 2008 will truly live on forever.

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