This is my column in today’s Greenville News

 

              Dear graduates, congratulations on your accomplishments!  Whether you are leaving high-school, trade-school, college or graduate school, you have done something.  You have, unlike many others, persevered to the end of your course of study, whether two years, 12 years or 18 years.  That’s a good first step; but only a first step.  Your certificates, awards and accolades, your grades and honors are testament to your effort.  But you have to accomplish more.

            So, first of all, I charge you, I ‘knight you,’ to go and do something great.  There are those who genuinely believe that there is no greatness left.  That all noble achievements have been attained.  This is an bold-faced lie.  And it can only come about in a country so used to comfort that it believes other people will still strive while we sit back and rot our brains with reality television and junk-food.

            What great things are there to attain?  Well, from my standpoint, you can go and cure cancer anytime you want.  Cancer is bad.  And someone needs to discover a cure, manufacture the cure, market the cure, and apply the cure.

            Or you can develop and implement new energy sources, or better ways to use old ones.  We don’t want to pay five dollars a gallon for gasoline.  We simply have to drive.  Please make better fuel, better cars, more efficient trains and planes.

            We have more than enough political consultants, ‘leaders,’ policy-makers.  We need fewer chiefs and more braves.  We need people to take their minds and hands and for heaven’s sake, do something!

            The possibilities are vast.  Go forth and risk, create, produce, defend us from enemies, explore the oceans, visit the planets, save us from injuries, manufacture the things we need, write soaring literature and inspiring screen-plays, develop new products and business models to put America at the top again.    The top is good!  Success is good!  Which brings me to another point.  Wealth is good.

            When you see someone who is successful, don’t hate them.  Ask yourself how they became successful. Ask them for advice.  Offer to work for them.  The President of the United States is fond of suggesting that wealthy people are fortunate and poor people are unfortunate.  He is incorrect.  Wealthy people, by and large, worked hard for years before they were wealthy.  They took risks, believed in great ideas, studied, learned, tried, failed and tried again.  They did not get to the money tree first and take all the large bills.  A few became wealthy illegally; these are rare and almost always lose in the end.

            Poor people are not unlucky, since I really don’t believe in luck, but may have suffered from adverse situations like lack of family resources, lack of support, loss of jobs, loss of spouses, diseases and injury.  Sometimes they, like the few wealthy, are bad.  They refuse to work, they lie, they steal, they ‘sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.’  But as a rule, the poor are striving for more.  Ironically, if they get more and become wealthy, they will be considered lucky and therefore cheats.  It’s a crazy world, isn’t it?

            Remember, too, that reatness is more than work.  Your greatness may be summed up in the words ‘father’ or ‘mother.’  If all you do is raise healthy, happy, productive children, then your life will have been a tremendous, odds-defying success.  If you make one husband or wife safe and happy for life, you will have been an example and encouragement to others. Furthermore, your job may merely be the way you support your calling to greatness, which might be working with youth, the elderly or the impoverished.

            Whatever you do, remember to do it for more than merely your own benefit and retirement.  If your entire goal is a nice house and lots of money, when you are old and decrepit those things will be small comfort when death circles you.  Philosopher Peter Kreeft says that we fail when we don’t educate our children in ‘how to die.’  He doesn’t mean suicide.  He means facing death with hope eternal, and having lived life with purpose.  Strive to succeed, and be prosperous, so you can bless your family, your friends, your children and their children, your church, your neighborhood.  Live so that your life is a legacy of both goodness and greatness. 

            You are only limited by your imaginations…and your willingness to suffer, work and delay gratification in order to achieve wonders that shock and enrage the bleary-eyed couch-sitters, the cynical web-site lurkers and comment-posters, who live in bitterness, wondering when someone will do more for them. 

            Spend your lives, dear graduates, not in search of better jobs with better benefits, that Holy Grail of modern life.  Spend your lives becoming a benefit to all of us.  We need what you have to offer.  Get to work and show us something great.

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