Hello everyone. It is truly an honor to be with you today to share in the celebration of your graduation.
Graduates, this is an important milestone, your biggest yet. You have worked hard these last years, you’ve struggled, you’ve doubted, you’ve persevered, you’ve learned and you’ve grown. Now, you stand on the cusp of a whole new chapter in your life. A chance to build on your successes, an opportunity to explore new paths, to reinvent yourself or to dive deeper into the things you’ve just discovered about yourself in your last three years at Lipman.
You are here today, ready to take your next step. And yet, as you look to take that step, the ground may seem to be shifting.
It is an understatement to say that we live in historic times. Just a couple weeks ago, our country was experiencing not one, but two historic crises, a global pandemic not seen on this scale in a century, and the resulting economic shock leaving unemployment at a level not seen since the 1930’s and the Great Depression. Now, just a couple of weeks later, we are also having a painful and necessary national conversation about the unhealed scars of 401 years of white supremacy and continuing violence against communities of color. All this happens to the ever accelerating cadence of historic weather events as our slow motion climate emergency gains momentum.
Though these events may be frightening as you look to take your next step, you, Lipman graduates, are in a unique and exciting place, the beginning of your education is over. You have learned how to learn and if you are fortunate, you’ve fallen in love with learning or at least have a strong crush. Now, you get to apply that to the rest of your life because there will always be more to learn.
All of you have been, in one way or another, grappling with questions of direction and purpose in your life and how the next chapter of your academic career will help you get there.
As you ponder these questions and consider: what is to be the purpose of your education and learning? Is it to get a job? Or perhaps a better job? Jobs are important. They put food on the table, pay the rent, put gas in the car. These are all necessary things but a job is replaceable and so is an employee. It’s a stepping stone but it’s unstable. For stability you want a career. A good job is one that can turn into a career. Careers can bring comfort for a family, a house, and all the material trappings we are taught to want. But material things don’t bring fulfillment except for the briefest moments. The rest of the time we feel like we are toiling away, working hard with only one question: Why?
To answer that question, to understand fulfillment, you must find Meaning. And you must find your own meaning, your own purpose. You must find the thing that drives you, the passion within you which knows no rest. When you find that meaning, what you do in your life will be more than you could have ever imagined and it will no longer feel like work.
One way to find meaning is to find a purpose in your life that is larger than yourself. It could be your family, your community, your school, the country or even the whole world. Look to where you can make a difference, where you can increase the wellbeing of those around you.
Graduates, as you know, there is no shortage of problems. The good news is that you are the best educated, most socially connected generation in history. You have the ability to see the world as it is and together you have the ability to transform it into the world you want to leave to your own children. It will soon be your time to co-create the world that you will inherit but for now you must balance that with choosing how to make the most of the remainder of your academic education so that you can be the person you were meant to be, so that you can make the difference that you want to make.
As you look for inspiration in that choice, think of those who have made a difference in our lives. Think of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the unfinished work to be done for racial justice. Think of the countless doctors, nurses and EMTs on the front lines of the pandemic or the scientists and researchers behind them searching for a cure. Think of people just a few years older than you, such as Greta Thunberg fighting for climate justice and the continuation of life on this planet. Or think of someone older, closer to your own life.
Take a moment to close your eyes and think of someone who made it possible for you to be here today. It could be a parent who worked multiple jobs to keep you fed and clothed and at school on time. It could be a relative who came to this country searching for a better life. It could be a teacher who helped spark a lifetime love of learning within you. Take a moment to thank that person for giving you the opportunity to be here and giving you the opportunity to make a difference. Think about how their gift made a difference to you and then think about how you will use it. Will you have to go out and get a job? Probably eventually. Will you get to have a career? Hopefully someday.
Will you find meaning in your life by making a difference in the world? That choice is yours alone to make and the decisions you make in the next steps of your education could make a world of difference.
Congratulations Lipman class of 2020. I can’t wait to see the difference that you will make in the world.