I am delighted to have this opportunity to welcome all of you to Marywood University and to New Student Orientation 2010. It gives me great pleasure to welcome the members of the Class of 2014 and their families and guests to our Marywood community.
To the parents and guardians of the Class of 2014 -- thank you, first of all, for making the journey here to be with your sons and daughters and with their new University on this important weekend. On a broader note, thank you for all of the sacrifices that you have made to assist and guide them as they have journeyed to this point in their lives, for the very hard work of preparing them for adulthood and becoming world citizens. Thank you as well for helping them to choose Marywood University, where we promise to offer them great possibilities during this significant transition in their lives and well beyond.
As I'm sure you know by now, your sons and daughters' entering into the experience of higher education also represents a great change in your own lives and in your role as parents. I hope that your involvement with Marywood will be an ongoing source of energy and inspiration and that we will see you at University events whenever possible.
And now I would like to say a few words directly to the students. Our theme for this year's Orientation is "Lead On. Light the Way." -- a theme that affirms Marywood's ongoing mission of educational empowerment, living as leaders in service to others, promoting global understanding, encouraging ethical decision making, seeking one's full potential, and embracing learning as a lifelong process. Each one of you comes to us as a light bearer, and I already know that your gifts and talents will come together here to illuminate the life of this University and to make the world a better, brighter place.
During the Olympic Games, the persons who bear the torch understand their sacred duty -- to perpetuate and pass on that flame to others. Those who carry it possess different abilities and come from diverse backgrounds, but their common goal is going the distance passing that torch from one to another. So it is with the torch of knowledge, the light of professional competence, the warmth of compassion, and the radiance of rich and meaningful human experience. That is what is carried and passed on here at Marywood
With your decision to become part of the Marywood University community, you have made a commitment to contribute your own spark and connect it to a radiance that, for 95 years, has enlightened thousands through the pursuit of academic excellence, the realization of God-given potential, and the practice of leadership in service to others for the life of the world.
So, members of the class of 2014, I encourage you to approach this transition to higher education with optimism and confidence. Know that we, as a university community, will be there to support and inspire you.
Each of you will make different choices about your majors, your career plans, and your activities-and you may even change your mind about some of those things along the way. While you are here, you will grow in many ways and will have wonderful opportunities to gain professional skills and competencies that will shape and sustain you for a lifetime. You will also have opportunities to build a life.
At this time of new beginnings, I want to remind you to pay attention to your inner life and to stay true to the purpose to which we are all called: to be light for the world. Whatever different or sometimes difficult paths you may travel, let your light shine so that all may benefit from its glow!
Don't be afraid to claim your place as light bearers and to assist one another in discovering how each of you is meant to be light and life for the world. Remember that letting your light shine is by no means a singular effort. It involves meaningful connection, profound openness to goodness and possibility and an ever deepening awareness of the beauty present in the people and creation.
Here at Marywood, we are blessed to be surrounded by natural beauty. In fact, our campus is a national arboretum. We believe that living responsibly in an interdependent world is a key facet of the Marywood educational experience. To develop fully as persons, we must truly open our eyes-physically, mentally, and spiritually-and never cease to be amazed by the lessons nature teaches. I urge you to ponder these lessons well.
As I walk this beautiful campus, I am often reminded of Mary Oliver's poem, "When I Am Among the Trees." This poem has a special message for you in light of the orientation theme. In Oliver's words:
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
So, in the weeks and months to come, I encourage you to "walk slowly, and bow often," especially in the midst of schedules that are busy and lives that can be chaotic. Walk in peace, not in chaos, and speak words of life and light into each situation you encounter. Don't let a hectic schedule, a discouraging setback-or even a string of successful endeavors-separate you from what matters. Take time to refresh your energy and your inner life.
We have all trained ourselves to run at full speed, and, even during our recreational moments, we often fill our lives with noise. It's important, though, to allow room for reflection and time to recognize the significance of the light we have been given. So, make that kind of time in your daily lives-turn off the TV, put away the video games, log off the computer, recharge the iPod, silence the cell phone, and sign off Facebook. Follow the lesson of the trees: "Stay awhile...go easy...be filled with light, and...shine."
Now, I'm not suggesting that you should isolate yourself and turn away every interaction. Indeed, we were created for connection, for authentic relationships -- with God and with one other. These connections are crucial to our well-being and success, not just academically, but throughout our lives. However, to bring our best selves to any situation, relationship, or challenge, we need to recharge our own light. It's all about balance.
Here at Marywood, you will find abundant opportunities to attain balance through spiritual restoration, a beautiful campus committed to sustainability, and a university community that encourages excellence in all endeavors and respects the value of each person. We want you to grow, to search, and to shine. Take advantage of all that you can learn and become at Marywood. And, when the time comes for you to leave us, you will go forth, ready and with confidence, into a world awaiting your knowledge...your professional training...your vision...your leadership...your energy...and your light.