Fifty years ago this month I graduated from high school. I like to believe the intervening half-century of experience has conferred upon me at least some ability to give advice to those of you who now sit where I did back in June of 62.
You’ve heard all the platitudes by now, so I’ll try to be brief, and I’ll try to make some sense—by first telling you a quick story, then, I’m going to get a little Biblical on you. Don’t worry; there’s a lot of good advice in Scripture—not all of it especially religious.
I was not the greatest student back in high school; Aaah, let’s face it…I was a wise guy. No one…and I mean no one…could tell me what to do at age 17. And I had a favorite response for anyone who would try. “I got everything under control,” I would say.
That line always sent my father into hysterics, because, truth was, I had control of very little in my life. That’s because my education (despite my cap and gown) was far from complete.
Well, after military service, and after putting myself through college, I kind of realized that my education was still not complete. I also began to realize that my education would never really be completed.
Then came a day ten years ago, when I finally started to understand why. I reunited with a high school buddy that I hadn’t spoken to for 35 years. After ten minutes he said to me, “What the hell happened to you? You used to be so crazy!” And believe me, he didn’t mean this as a compliment; that is, he didn’t think I had improved since high school.
Well, that’s when I quoted to him from First Corinthians. In chapter 13 verse 11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
So…I’ve been gradually putting away the things of a child for 50 years now. Not all of them—I still try to hang on to my childish amazement of a 500-foot homerun, or of a good guitar riff, or even a pie in the face (done correctly, of course).
And there’s nothing quite as delightful as children’s innocence as they look hopefully at the great things in life…like a loved-one’s smile, or a day at the beach, or a really cold fudgesicle.
So now, as you look at yourself wearing that mortarboard and tassel on your head, believe this if you believe nothing else: Your education begins in earnest—now! And if you’re fortunate, it will never stop.
Best of luck to the Class of 2012 as they move forward. And if you read First Corinthians, Chapter 13 every once in a while, I think you’ll do just fine.