Godspeed, Graduates

This past weekend, I attended my high school’s graduation and watched the seniors take their last steps across the patio they’d called home for a year. The commencement speaker, Clyde Tuggle, the Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer of Coca-Cola, had some interesting, if not wise, words to share. He started out giving us a bit of background on himself and his preparation for this talk. He said that he’d asked his children who warned him “For the love of god dad, dont say anything weird…” And in light of that warning, he had another guideline for himself- he didn’t want to give another self-help commencement speech that gives a step by step process on how to properly seize the day.

Instead, we were treated to a speech on his journey from rising episcopal priest to soft drinks salesman. And to get there he said, it takes a calling. Not a booming message from God, but as a result of exploration, finding the true thing which you love doing. And that turns out to be the difficult part. For geniuses, it’s easy. Tuggle quoted the poet W.H. Auden, saying, “Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals. What they must do is what they want to do.” The merely brilliant and gifted ones must find their calling. How to do this you say? Tuggle answered, “With an open mind.” One must also put oneself in a position to strike when opportunity knocks. And education is in his mind necessary to find this calling, to be well prepared to grab up opportunities. But my question is, what qualifies as education? Must it be college?

Tuggle’s following remarks provided the impression that sometimes, the most memorable learning moments may not come from school, but from those around you sharing their experiences. He then proceeded to share with the graduates some of his mother’s words of advice, important and valuable things she taught him. He told the graduates to “Challenge the status quo, move outside programmed safe zones and turn into uncharted territory.” He said that his experiences have shown him the “cracks in a broken world which fill [people] with questions.” And he decided he wants answers.

Then he sent the students off with what were in my mind, pithy last words, again inspired by his mother. “College is the first step on biggest journey of your life,” he said. “Find time for productive mischief…

And Godspeed.”

To everyone, Godspeed, and have a good summer. To the class of 2012, carpe diem :).

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One thought on “Godspeed, Graduates

  1. Great post, Tara. Interesting for me to reflect on those moments when I’ve received ‘the best’ education… I’ve had the privilege of walking some pretty “hallowed halls” in terms of learning. But, where have I actually learned the most?…coffee shops, my local public library, the running trails of my school where I walk during planning periods sometimes, reading blogs of courageous and open learners, the beach, the 10 pm spontaneous call from a colleague and friend, early morning rides to school with my children… these are the places where I have comfort and ease. I am true to myself in these moments because there is ‘no one to impress.’ In these moments, my questions and observations are raw, real, and unfiltered. I am open to hearing a new perspective and to sharing mine without fear of judgement, “grades” or expectations. I appreciate my formal learning and those moments, too. But, your question about “what qualifies as education?” prompted those thoughts for me. If I’m honest, I don’t remember many of “the facts” I learned in college. I remember that I loved studying art history; I loved psychology; I loved women’s studies. I really loved going to the basketball games and hanging out in the beautiful campus gardens with my friends. I liked being exposed to perspectives other than mine. But, I’d fail every single exam if I had to take them again right now. In contrast, I remember many of the fact I learned in graduate school. I was in graduate school for a different reason though. I was in graduate school at a different time in my life. I selected almost everything about my graduate studies… it was not chosen by a committee of adults setting standards for what was deemed to be a “a robust liberal arts education.” So, yes. Carpe Diem indeed. May the education be continuous, unexpected, and rich. And, may it encourage productive mischief!

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