Spevak: Graduations bring words of hope, promise

By John SpevakJune 1, 2012 

I've been a part of many graduations, beginning more than a half-century ago when I completed grade school.

I remember that day in 1959. My eighth-grade graduating peers and I had flowing blue and white ribbons pinned to our clothes, signifying success. We felt so good about life and our future. But I don't remember anything that day about the graduation speech.

I've heard many graduation speeches and read many graduation thoughts since then, most of which I have also forgotten. I'm reluctant to add anything more to the commencement verbiage.

This year, however, I have two grandchildren graduating -- one from eighth grade and one from high school. Hanna will be graduating from St. Albert's School in Reno next week; David from Los Banos High School tonight.

These commencements have me reflecting on graduation. Today I'll say a few words to Hanna and David, which might also be applicable to other graduates.

"Hope" comes to mind. I'm not sure this word would have floated to the top of my commencement reflections 30 or 40 years ago. But today hope is what I think needs to be emphasized most -- not just hope for graduates but hope for our country and the world.

Today it's easy to be hopeless and to feel a sense of pessimism, even despair. Many people are losing their homes. Many people are unemployed, including recent college graduates.

Educational costs have skyrocketed. The total debt incurred by college students in America is more than America's total credit card debt.

The economy is floundering. Our states, our country and, it seems, all the countries in the world are in debt.

The challenges of climate change, international political turmoil and increasing worldwide population (now at seven billion and growing) also loom.

With all of these problems, we seem to have fewer and fewer solutions, because people today are polarized, more concerned about arguing with each other than working together. Many people have simply given up -- not just on solutions, but on life.

So, first of all, Hanna and David, I encourage you to cultivate hope. You are young, and with youth comes idealism and a positive approach to finding solutions and creating harmony.

If you don't have hope, how can we who are older, who have experienced discouragement so often, have hope?

You also need to provide hope for others. I trust you will each pursue a career and a life that will bring you personal fulfillment. I expect that you will follow your dreams and find work that you will enjoy.

I also hope the career you choose and the life you create will benefit others. A life of service can be of such help to the community around you and, yes, even to the world.

I also encourage you to collaborate -- to work together with others. Yes, competition is good, and often brings out the best in a person and in a business. But collaboration is even more important.

Please don't yell at people with whom you disagree, as so many people do today. Instead, please talk with them, and even more important, listen to them. Find common ground and move forward.

Hanna and David, I'm proud of what you have already accomplished. And I see such promise in both of you. You are bright and caring individuals. You have so much to offer the world. Continue to learn, create and serve.

The hope you can bring to life is desperately needed. Please nurture this hope in your hearts -- now and throughout your lives.

On another note: Los Banos has suffered deep losses recently, extraordinary people like Helen Paradiso, Charles Sawyer, Dominic Brandi, Henry Fialho and Debbie Parreira. So many Los Banosans are grieving.

While we celebrate the lives of those we've lost, we also mourn their passing and feel the holes in our lives their deaths have made. Then our tears give way to smiles when we remember the joy they brought into our lives and the lives of so many others.

May they rest in eternal and glorious peace.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 28 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 28 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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