So you’re graduating. The doors of your four year or more safety net are now closed to you. You are going off into the world to fly and soar and you have no idea what comes next.
I’m not talking about bills, and policies, I’m talking about the world. You are future Presidents and Senators. Artists and writers. Prime Ministers and Premiers. You have achieved so much in your college careers and I am excited to see what you become.
It is my hope that this power you have been given through years of hard study will inspire you to create the world we were promised.
A world filled with cultural understanding and respect. A world not governed by bombs and threats of destruction. You have the power to take all you have learned and utilize it for the best possible future for us, and for your children.
Yesterday a young man named Richard Collins the Third was killed, purely because of the color of his skin.
Some of you think that his death doesn’t matter, but he would have graduated today. He would have gone off to join the fight against terrorism as a second lieutenant in the US Army.
His voice is not something we can hear ever again, and the lives he would have saved will now either be saved by another, or they will be lost forever.
Today you the students of yesterday, the heroes of tomorrow can speak on his behalf by the way you choose to live your lives.
You can become or remain complacent to the direction our world leaders are taking our planet, our human society. Or you can stand up and make a difference.
No matter what it is you have chosen as your life vocation, make your life matter. It’s not easy to explain why some people have to die while others seemingly less deserving get to remain, but the only conclusion that I’ve been able to come after losing far too many to death, is that we’re still here so that we can speak for them. So that we can live our lives as if the world were what it should, to show it what it can be.
You’ve worked hard over the last few years to be called an adult. To make your mark on the world, so make your mark and make it count.
Be strong in the face of adversary, when something or someone tries to knock you down get the fuck up and punch it in the gut and say “No. Not today.” Have fun. Always have fun. Fill your world with music and art and laughter and joy, so that when the day comes you don’t feel like smiling you can look back into your memory and find a reason.
Hold on to your dreams and share them with the world. Write, draw, dance naked – especially on days when all you want to do is cry. Believe in yourself. You’ve made this far so clearly you have something to offer the world.
You have been granted the gift of an education, no matter hard you worked to get where you are, recognize the gift you’ve been given. The opportunities that will come your way through the next few years of your life, will be a direct result of your college and university careers.
On days when you feel like the world hates you and you are alone, find someone anyone to connect to. Don’t let the darkness destroy you. It will try, it will be clever in it’s promises and it’s slightly cool and oddly warm embrace. Shake it off, stand up and fight back.
Be Vulnerable – the world is a harsh and scary place and the only to connect to it, is to let it hurt you. To be open to all experiences, good or bad. They will shape you, every experience will teach you something about who you are and who could be.
Give one day a week to helping someone or something else. Volunteer, share your time with someone who needs you – I promise you’ll learn they probably need you less than you need them.
Value the people you love, learn to respect the people you do not. Their lives matter too. Smile at random strangers when you walk down the street, and compliment them – watch as they smile. Your work there is done. Complimenting a stranger on their shoes or their hair will make them feel good and chances are they probably need it more than you know.
Choose to be free, strong, wise, creative, silly and goofy. Whatever you do, do it always in a way that empowers those around you.
Live your life in a way that would Mr. Richard Collins the Third proud to have known you. To have wanted to know you. Live for him, and all the others whose lives have been so unnecessarily ended.
If you live life in a way that is for others, rather than yourself, I can promise you nothing but a legacy of love, laughter, and life worth living.
Congratulations to the class of 2017. May you soar and may all of your dreams come true.
Sending my love in hopes that you share it,
Devon J Hall