I want to start by giving my sincerest commendation to this year’s grads and the people who love them. Being here today is proof of a remarkable individual accomplishment that was achieved though the fingerprints of many.
Also please understand that I cannot properly articulate tonight how honoured I am to be standing here, but trust that my heart is humbled and full.
Time waits for no one and 2018 marks my twentieth year since high school graduation. Recently, as my old classmates started chatting about plans for a reunion this summer, I pulled my old yearbooks off the shelf and started flipping through the pages. Drawn in part by the nostalgia and mostly because I couldn’t remember who half of these people were.
There were lots of messages and comments that made me smile. Many memories that reminded me how fortunate my generation was to be without social media and cameras in everyone’s hands. And lots of pictures confirmed that not much in style or fashion is timeless. But there was one message in particular that stood out to me. It was barely legible, assumably from an acquaintance, and it’s sentiments read something to the effect of, “School is almost over. Have a great life. Never change who you are.” A neither imaginative or heartfelt message though it caused me to think about that girl, not quite woman, from twenty years ago and how much was different now.
There are things about ourselves that we have no power to change. The parts that are genetically ingrained into our makeup and uniquely form us into who we are. But one of the greatest privileges that we share as humans is the ability to learn and change.
When I think back to the past few years I am eternally grateful that I was not the woman I was before. Every relationship and circumstance had played a role in growing my compassion, softening my standards, and bolstering my resolve. I learned that not all my ideas and opinions were unshakable and changing my mind was not a sign of weakness. I was taught the gift of flexibility and how in times of crisis it is a strong ally. I began to understand that it is our authenticity and honesty that pulls us to each other not our perfection.
We are not chained to the past or limited by our previous decisions. As we go through life we can choose a new response to an old situation. We can learn to draw from the strengths of others and be complete in our vulnerability. So that when life breaks our hearts we won’t know defeat. We will instead have confidence that even though wrongs may never be made right, tragedy can be redeemed.
I recently stumbled onto a brilliant quote from a man named Randall Stephenson that reads:
Tolerance is for cowards.
Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and not make waves,
Holding tightly to your views without being challenged.
Do not tolerate each other.
Move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other.
I am confident that if you choose to move into this ‘uncomfortable territory’ you will be transformed. If you allow more fingerprints to be impressed into you the ones you can leave on others will be countless.