Posted by jlwile on May 11, 2012
Yesterday, I had the distinct honor of speaking at the 2012 SEEK graduation ceremony. As I told the graduates, I do a lot of speaking around the world on many different topics, but speaking at homeschool graduation ceremonies is my very favorite kind of speaking engagement. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of such an important time in the lives of students and parents, and this specific graduation ceremony was particularly enjoyable. The event was efficiently organized and ran like a well-oiled machine, but more importantly, it was inspiring and uplifting.
It began with a short welcome by a graduate named Jensen. When people speak in public, they often take on a completely different personality. Sometimes, this is good, and sometimes, it is awkward. Jensen simply didn’t do that. He came up and welcomed us as if he was talking to each one of us individually. His personality came shining through in his welcome, and it set the tone for what was a very real, very enjoyable evening.
After a sincere opening prayer given by another graduate named Troy, we were treated to a graduate (Joe) who played and sang “If I stand,” by Rich Mullins and Steve Cudworth. Now I play the piano well enough so that I don’t offend anyone, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to those who can really play. I also sing in a way that doesn’t offend too many people, and once again, I love to listen to those who can really sing. Well, this student could really play and really sing, and he could do them both at the same time! The song, of course, is chock-full of meaning, and the chorus says it all:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
So if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home
This inspiring song was followed by an equally-inspiring speech by another graduate, Ashley. She opened her speech so effectively. While I can’t quote her exact words, she essentially said that she wasn’t there to tell her fellow graduates that they could do anything they set their mind to. Instead, she was there to tell them that they could do anything that the Lord had in store for them. With this masterful contrast between the wisdom of the world and the truth of God, she then inspired her graduates (and me) to follow His Way, which was the title of her speech.
Several of the graduates then sang a rendition of “Revelation 19,” a choral arrangement I had never heard before. The lyrics were simple yet profound, and the students did a remarkable job with it. I was particularly struck by the young men who sang. As is the case with most choirs, the young women significantly outnumbered them, but the male part was strong and sure. (The link is not from the graduation, but I think the piece is worth listening to, if you have the time).
As if it wasn’t bad enough for the organizers to put an excellent speaker like Ashley before me, “Revelation 19″ was followed by yet another inspiring speech. This was given by a graduate named Ethan, and the content of his speech was actually quite similar to the content of the speech that I had prepared. While I used the text of Luke 12:35-48 as the guide for my speech, he used the wisdom of Spider-man:
With great power comes great responsibility.
In an animated, dramatic way, he communicated the truth that we as Christians have a great responsibility to the world and that we should take this responsibility very seriously.
Now that all these inspiring things had happened, it was time for a graduate named Tim to introduce me to the audience. I have to say that I was simply floored by what this young man said. Most people who introduce me at events want me to write out something for them to say, or they use one of my published biographies. However, Tim had taken his task very seriously. A couple of weeks before the ceremony, he had called me and asked me a few questions. We talked for a little while, and that was it. While I remembered the fact that I had spoken with him on the phone, I really didn’t remember what we had talked about. Obviously, we had talked about a great many things, because the introduction he gave was very thorough! At the same time, however, it was not overly long.
He talked about the fact that I used to be an atheist but had been challenged during a debate to actually look at the evidence for Christianity. This led to me becoming a Christian. He spoke of my love for the theater and how working with special effects was what got me interested in chemistry. He said some very touching things about my work in the homeschooling community and how I had affected him personally. I have to say it was probably the best introduction I have ever been given!
So then it was my turn. I gave a commencement address that was straight from the heart. I have given it before, but I sincerely mean every word, so I tend to use it for my first appearance at any commencement. If you don’t want to read the text of the speech, the main thrust of the message is that homeschooled students have been given much, so as a result, much will be required of them (Luke 12:48). In the course of driving that point home, I make it clear that the main reason they have been given so much is because their parents have sacrificed mightily for them.
After my speech, we were treated to a lovely rendition of “Nocturne for Harp in Eb” by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, performed by a graduate named Olivia. When I had initially walked into the sanctuary where the graduation was to be held, I saw the harp standing on stage. I was excited, because I consider it to be one of the most beautiful-sounding instruments on the planet. Olivia did not disappoint. She played with technical expertise and personal style. It was a wonderful interlude between my speech and the important parts of the ceremony – the granting of diplomas by the parents and the turning of the tassels.
You might have noticed that throughout this blog post, I have used the word “inspiring.” That relates to the secondary message of the speech I gave to the graduates. Homeschoolers have inspired me ever since I started working with them. When I was on the faculty at Indiana University and Ball State University, I was convinced that there was no hope for the future of this country (or the world as a whole). I honestly thought that nothing could clean up the mess that my generation has made, and that this nation and the world would simply continue to deteriorate until Christ comes again. However, as a result of working with homeschoolers, my outlook about the future has changed. I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion by any means, but I do think that things CAN get better, IF homeschool graduates do what is required of them. They can truly change the world, and I know homeschool graduates who are already doing just that. Graduation ceremonies like this one make me even more optimistic about the future.
The hope of a better world rests squarely on the shoulders of young people like those to whom I spoke last night. Let us all pray that they continue to follow the Lord’s leading in their lives. It will make their burden a lot easier for them to carry.