I imagined myself taking the podium, looking over the crowd, and seeing the happy family members half smiling back. In my mind I place my papers down, look up, and begin in an uplifting manner.
Good evening parents… grandparents… family and friends… and especially you, our graduates. Congratulations, you have reached this joyous occasion through long grueling days of Play-Doh, paste, and Playground. You have every right to be proud of yourself.
Months ago you timidly climbed the steps to the slide, nervously moved on to the greater heights of the monkey bars, then proudly reached, ever so higher to the tippy top of the castle, taking your blankey to places that were literally, and I mean literally, out of reach just years before.
As you looked out over the school yard you thought, shucks, I’d rather be home playing X-Box, but through your perseverance you unwittingly formed a foundation, a foundation for a new you and new way of thinking. You now know, everything is not yours, the tags on your clothes go to the back, and crying only sometimes helps because adults can still use force when no one’s looking.
You see, Graduates, your parents are thinkers, go getters. With their sense of responsibility they smartly opened up their wallets so you can get a head start on learning life’s rules. The rules that your teachers, through clinched teeth taught, “Keep your hands to yourself,” “Play fair,” and “Don’t run with that stick.” And now, the rule you’re just about to figure out on your own, “Having a little bit of money can’t hurt.”
Now, Graduates, I’d like to speak to your parents for a moment for they are about to live for the first time, or possibly relive an excursion into mandatory school life.
Parents… look at your little darlings up here in their cute little caps and gowns, smiling back, some with their hats too low to their eyes, waving at you with complete abandon because they don’t care where they are. They’re perfect little angels aren’t they? It’s the same way they act with you at home isn’t it?
They notice you and the love they have for you makes them react, to tell you they love you. They say it by waving proudly, calling, “Hey Mom!”, or “Hey Dad!” They want you to see them. They feel safe when they know you’re watching. Take a look…Now, look around you…Now, feel this building and the presence of others who have children here. Older brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, remember that you are here, too. Thank you for taking part in your family’s history and when these new personalities started to form. You are here for them, as fate gently pushes them into the game of life.Soon, they will be asked to play.
Some will play first string. Others will have to work harder and develop skills that are unique to the team. But all will participate.
Although, he or she won’t always know exactly what position is best for them, you should use your expertise to nudge them into the direction you want. And, there will come a time when they have to decide on their own. Support that decision.
Of course you have some time. Right now all they want to be is Princesses, Ninja Turtles, and Santa. I heard the other day about a little girl who said when she grows up; she wants to be a twin.They will grow up and as they do, love them with all your heart.
Sadly, my mother wasn’t lucky. She had a son who wouldn’t shut up.
“Yes, Larry,” she would tiredly say. “What is it now, Larry,” she moaned. “We don’t have a Teddy Bear, Larry”… “Larry, here, sleep with this rubber chicken.”
But she took me to shows and voice lessons, piano lessons and guitar lessons until I figured out my path. She was right. It was in the arts.
In a book I wrote I delve into how people take different paths for success, the twists and turns and the forks in the road one navigates to move forward, to mature, and to prosper. I’ve found I’m at my weakest when I leave the arts to find my fortune. I write “The only luxury I’ve never been afforded was the luxury of having luxury.” Money isn’t everything. Happiness in your heart is success.
These kids in the next few years will be finding out things about their young selves that will direct them toward being a happier child and to things that are challenging that will test their inner strength. Let them know once again that the game of life doesn’t always play by the rules. Once again, love them with all your heart and they will learn through your example.
I beg you to take your child places and when there, explain what’s all around them. If all you have time and money for is to take them for a simple walk downtown. There is a whole lot of history you can tell them about. Take them to see the ducks, festivals, or fishing on the side the road. Just take them. Time waits for no one.
In closing, I’d like to do the parents a favor and give the graduates some tips to take through the next year. It might stick. I figured I’d try.
Kids… when you’re at the LSU Football game and everyone is yelling, Charge! Charge! Charge! Do not look up at daddy and say, “You know that’s how mommy got the new furniture after I heard you say not to.”
Kids, when the family is over at Christmas and your grandfather smiles for the pictures, do not yell out, “Gee, Paw Paw the tooth fairly must have given you a lot of money. You don’t have any teeth.”
Kids, when in the store at the checkout counter, do not tell the clerk, “I’m only getting this present because daddy says it will shut me up.”
And, kids, when your family has guests over and one mentions you have a lovely couch, do not ever say, "We know, that’s because daddy ends up sleeping there a lot.”
Thank you and remember, life for you and your family starts right here, in your heart.