Commencement 2010 Address

May 09, 2010

I would like to say a few words directly to our graduates.

Embrace this day. It is the day you have waited for ... the goal you have worked so hard to reach. Take time to savor the joy of this present moment.

As you do, understand the strength of what lies behind you. Hold the wisdom that has been shared with you through your educational experience here at Marywood. Keep this close along with the treasure of memories that will become even more precious in the years to come.

Feel energy in the challenge and excitement of the adventure that lies ahead of you. From today's threshold, you will go forward -- each of you -- to create your own imprint on society. Let your imprint be one characterized by service, integrity, compassion, a constant striving for excellence, and thoughtful leadership. Claim your capacity to see and celebrate truth, goodness and beauty in the people and circumstances that surround you.

Above all, I urge you to be mindful that the power to pursue this worthy course lies within you. Keep as your guide these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pale in comparison to what lies inside you.

Never forget that within you is the power to make a difference. Within you is the power to choose to stand for fairness and justice. Within you is the power to find just solutions to complex problems. Within you is the power to enrich your own chosen profession to the benefit of those who will follow you. Within you is the power to live with honor. Within you is the power to improve the quality of life for people in your community ... and for those around the world.

In your imagination is power unlimited. Go ahead and dream impossible dreams. Then open your mind to inspiration that can make the impossible possible. Our newest graduate, Dr. William Strickland has already demonstrated how to do this. He allowed himself to have a grand vision ... and began with humble resources. He wanted to turn life around for troubled young people ... and he started ceramic classes in his neighborhood. He propelled it with the force of his own creativity to become an enterprise of incalculable blessing for countless individuals.

In one short verse, Poet Emily Dickenson dramatically illustrates magnificent achievement realized from nearly infinitesimal beginnings -- and the force of inspiration that drives such achievement.

To make a prairie, it takes a clover and one bee.

One clover and a bee

And reverie.

The reverie alone will do

If bees are few.

My prayer for you today is that you will always remember the strength that is within you ... that you will not be daunted by the idea of "creating a prairie" when you have only "one clover and one bee" ... that you may boldly harness the force of your own imagination and daring "reverie," going forward with hope to realize your dreams.

A French proverb reminds us: Hope is the dream of a soul awake. May your souls awaken each day to possibility, even if all you seek to achieve does not necessarily come easily. In fact, challenges can often hone our success, even as hope illuminates it. The Greek philosopher Epictetus observed: The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputations from storms and tempests.

My deepest hope for you is that you will never stop engaging in the process of learning ... that you will persist in striving for excellence in your personal and professional lives ... that your life journeys will continue to "challenge and refine you, bringing you every day further into the wonder of your heart" (O'Donohue).

Today I see before me more than 850 graduates from 21 states and eight countries -- each one of you is already a leader. I have every confidence that you will continue to choose to "live responsibly in our interdependent world," striving for excellence in all that you do, and making a positive difference in the lives of those you encounter.

Marywood has endeavored to educate you in heart as well as in head -- both within and beyond the classrooms. We are proud of all that you have already accomplished during your years on our campus. Wherever life takes you, I encourage you to "Lead On," demonstrating through practical and concrete living of the core values of this University that principled leadership matters. Our world needs you ... your talents ... your goodness ... and your vision.

On behalf of all at Marywood University, I congratulate each one of you and rejoice with you, your families, and friends. May God bless you abundantly, and may you live this day and each day forward "compassionate of heart, clear in mind, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought and generous in love" (O'Donohue).