Our son Miles graduated from Hillsboro High School on May 13; I had the privilege of giving the Baccalaureate address the night before. These are my notes.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of 2016, parents and families, teachers, friends:
Take a moment, just a moment, to let it sink in. Tomorrow is your graduation day. It’ll be a big day, a long-awaited day, and everybody will be excited, and you’ll be at the arena and you’ll line up, and you’ll file in, and you’ll be looking around at your friends, and you’ll be scanning the stands for the faces of the people you love and who love you, and you’ll be waiting for the next thing to happen, and you’ll feel a rush of emotions, and you’ll ride those waves with the poise of a surfer, and you’ll cross the stage with confidence because you have done it - you’ve really done it - and you’ll come down those steps with a diploma in your hand and a smile on your face, and the people who love you will laugh and cry and cheer, and everybody will be taking pictures, and you won’t have a moment to let it sink in: You’re done with high school. The next time you go back there, if you ever go back there, they’ll make you get a visitor’s pass.
You’ve learned a bunch of stuff you’re quite certain you’ll never look at again in your life, but you’ve also learned to wear some of your certainties lightly, because there’s so much to explore and discover and learn. Perhaps you’re a little worried about what’s next; perhaps you’re wondering how to explain that you’re thinking about changing your major when you haven’t even been to freshman orientation at college - don’t worry about it, it’s your mind’s way of celebrating all the possibilities you have unlocked with your hard work. You are smart, you are skilled, you have pushed hard against all kinds of challenges since your freshman year as a Burro, and you have accomplished this: four years of endless assignments, early mornings, trips to the office, notes home, tapping into every reserve of energy and imagination, tests, exams, and class presentations, forgotten homework, late night studying, and then up again in the morning to do it all over again. You’ve done it and no one can take this away from you; you can build on this with confidence.
As one of the dads in this room, I can tell you, we’re very proud of you. But why should I tell you. Parents, families, friends and teachers of the Class of 2016, will you please stand? When I say, “Hillsboro Class of 2016,” I want you to say “we’re proud of you” and add the name of the student or students you’re celebrating. Hillsboro Class of 2016 - We’re proud of you.
Please be seated. Yes, you have accomplished much, ladies and gentlemen. I invite you to take a moment and remember the people who helped you get here; your parents, your teachers, that one teacher or coach who got through to you when nobody else did, you know who I’m talking about. Class of 2016, will you please stand? I want you to think of the people whose love and support you could count on, and when I raise my arms, I invite you to say, “Thank you.”
Please be seated. I think we’ve said what is most important to say on a day like today. We’re proud of you. Thank you. Saying these words helps us remember that we are who we are because of the people who love us, and what a magical thing it is to love somebody and to watch them flourish. It’s the ancient rhythm of receiving the gift of life and discovering our own, personal ways to share that gift with others through our love and our work.
The rabbis tell the story of a young woman who saw the suffering in the world about her and pleaded with heaven. “Creator of the Universe, there is so much pain in the world. War, famine, cruelty, ignorance, fear. Why don’t you send someone to change it?” And a voice from heaven replied, “I did send someone. I sent you.”
That’s us, the sent ones. Each and every one of us and all of us together. Not all of us will use religious language to speak of our sense of being sent - but don’t we all know that feeling of life calling us, of the world calling us, the feeling ofhaving been sent to help the world become a home where all of life flourishes, through our love and our work?
Let me close with a story. The Buddhist monk Tetsugen wanted to translate the teachings of the Buddha into Japanese. He spent ten years begging for the money it would take to have them printed. Just as he was about to begin the first printing, a great flood came and left thousands homeless. So Tetsugen took the money he had raised to publish the scriptures and built houses for the homeless.
Then he began again to beg the money he needed to publish the scriptures. Ten years later, just as he finished collecting the funds he needed for the task, a great famine came. This time, Tetsugen took the money for the translation work and spent it to buy food for the hungry. Then he began another decade’s work of collecting the money for the third time.
When the scriptures were finally printed in Japanese, they were enshrined for all to see. Parents take their children and teachers their students to view the books, and they tell them that the first two editions of those scriptures - houses for the homeless and the people who got to eat - were even more beautiful than the third, the printed edition.
We’re the sent ones. Sent to find the teachings worth printing. Sent to translate them into lives of love and work. Congratulations, Class of 2016.