Congrats, grads! We are proud of you. We honor your hard work, and the commitment you made to complete this phase of your life. We also honor you moms and dads, who faithfully helped your sons and daughters complete and finish well.
Grad days are great days. I can remember the euphoria I felt when I completed high school, and then, went on to graduate from two colleges. What a wonderful sense of relief I experienced. No more classes, no more exams, no more required reading. I was done, in more ways than one!
However, as I ponder those days, I think that my euphoria lasted no longer than one day. It didn’t take me long to realize that graduation, by its very definition, was not an end but a beginning. It was simply the completion of one baby step forward on the road of life. There were many more steps that would be required in the years to come.
In my later years, I have had the privilege of speaking at numerous commencement ceremonies addressing the next generation. I have always felt awe as I looked over a sea of young Canadians. So much promise, so much potential, so many opportunities before them.
I could imagine the time moms and dads invested in their kids proofing papers, providing care, protecting hearts, and projecting what their child’s future could look like. Those were trying, but good, days.
Personally, as a father, I found that graduation was a parental realty check. I was struck with the thought that there was little more that I could do for them now. Where they went, what they did, and who they became was up to them now. I had to trust that what had been deposited in them would cause them to make wise decisions about their future.
Clearly, to many, graduation is spelled R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y. In our Canadian culture, graduation is a social acknowledgement of a young person’s movement into adulthood. They have passed a common test required of all Canadian youth.
However, life after grad is a constant introduction to new sets of challenges to grow up and change. Youth graduate from something to something. There is no vacuum: there is no time to waste. Another cycle of education is ready to begin. There is no getting away from the sense of increased social expectations. More tests lie directly ahead.
Arie Pencovici said, “Graduation is only a concept. In real life, every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life.” I believe that!
Life after grad isn’t just about rights – it’s about responsibilities. Opportunities will come, but I pray that this generation will not pass them up because they are wearing overalls, and require good Canadian sweat. It took good, clean, hard work to give us the Canada we now enjoy. It will take that from every young person entering the workforce to keep it.
Life after grad is about Canadian youth taking their place in society to create a better world. That takes more than being dedicated to make a living: it requires a daily diligence, and commitment to integrity and character, to make a life worth living.
The real test of their education is whether grads have the ability to turn what they know into a personal and social expression of wisdom. Knowledge should be used to serve the city, to put back into the system what has been invested in them.
At the same time, every young grad needs to be encouraged to dream their dream, be the dream, and then, live the dream. Mahatma Gandhi stated, “[They] must [become] the change [they] wish to see in [their] world” [italics mine].
I know that there are many city leaders that are committed to help these young grads succeed. They offer knowledge, experience, skills, values, and discipline. They consider it an investment in the future of Canada. I pray the youth take them up on it, and value it.
The future is now for these graduating classes. My prayer is that they remember this poem, for it will keep them focused on what is really important:
“The future lies before you, like a field of driven snow;
be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”