I recently gave a speech to some of the future leaders of our nation – graduates of homeschools throughout the state of Indiana. I never give speeches from a written text, but I often write out what I am going to say in order to prepare myself. I took the ending of this address from a speech I gave at the senior recital of one of the brightest, most talented students I have ever known. She is now an adult, and she is literally changing the world. While she was the inspiration for this speech’s ending, it is appropriate for most homeschool graduates. Below the fold, you will find the approximate text of this speech.
Thank you so much for inviting me to this wonderful event. I do a lot of speaking throughout the U.S. and even abroad, but I have to say that speaking at commencements is my favorite thing to do. It is such a blast to see all of you and to share with you in this joyous occasion.
Now, even though this is a joyous event, I have to warn you that it is also a bit grave. After all, you are starting your journey as adults. Your decisions actually matter now. Soon, you will become acquainted with this thing called “responsibility,” and it is NOT awesome.
While there are many others celebrating this joyous/grave event, I have to further warn you that your graduation from homeschool is significantly more grave than that of most students.
Why? Well, consider what Jesus said in Luke, chapter 12. He said to think of a master who goes away and leaves his servants in charge. If the master returns unexpectedly and finds his servants slacking off, he will punish them. However, the punishment will not be equal. For the servants who really didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing, the punishment will be light. But for those who knew what they were supposed to do and just didn’t do it, the punishment will be severe. He then ends with these sobering words:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
Well, graduates, YOU have been given much. As a result, much will be required of you.
How can I say that you have been “given much?” Consider the fact that you have been given the BEST education possible in the United States. When homeschooled students are compared to their peers academically, they are found to be significantly superior to both publicly- and privately-schooled students. For example, Boston University tracked their homeschooled population for a total of six years, and the average homeschool graduate at Boston University had a GPA of 3.3 out of 4.1 The rest of the student population had a GPA of 2.1. Homeschool graduates outperform their peers at university, usually by more than a full letter grade. It is not surprising, then, that homeschool graduates are significantly more likely than their peers to earn advanced degrees. If you go to university, then, you will be a leader.
If you are going straight into the workforce, the results are the same. HR Magazine is a trade journal for people who hire other people for a living. This trade journal touted homeschool graduates as a “good investment” because employers find “their work ethic and personal qualities an unbeatable combination.” 2 If you go into the workforce, then, you will be a leader.
But what you have been given goes beyond a superior education. You have also been given REALISTIC socialization. While most of your peers were forced to be cloistered away in ghettos that consisted of people their own age and roughly their own socioeconomic status, you have been forced (sometimes against your will) to interact will people of all ages and people from all walks of life. It’s no wonder that 79% of homeschooled adults say that homeschooling helped them to interact with those from other levels of society. 3 It’s also no wonder that 76% of homeschool graduates vote regularly and 71% volunteer in at least one ongoing community service, compared to less than one-third of their peers. 4
In your community, then, you will be a leader.
But you have been given something even better than a superior education and realistic socialization: You have been given a DAILY model of what it means to love someone sacrificially. Your parents love you so much that they gave up their time, their money, and their energy so that you could have the best education available in the U.S. Come on…do you really think they wanted to deal with trigonometry? Yet…because they knew it might be important for your future, they couldn’t entrust your learning of trigonometry to anyone else. They had to make sure you learned it well – so they did it themselves.
Most commencement speakers want you to look forward. However, for a moment, I want you to look back. I want you to think back over your homeschool years and find your WORST day of homeschooling. Come on. I really want you to do this. Think about that day were you wanted to be anywhere else: public school, private school, ROWANDA. You wanted to be anywhere but in homeschool. Do you have that day in your mind? Think about it. Think about the frustration, the anger, the hurt. Think about how hard that day was. Now…think about this:
As hard as that day was for you… It was even HARDER on your parents!
After all, they experienced the anger, the hurt, the frustration. But they also knew IT WAS THEIR FAULT. You were homeschooling because of them. Fortunately for you, however, they persevered through it all. That’s what it means to love someone sacrificially, and that was MODELED to you on a DAILY basis. This makes you uniquely qualified to go out there and love those people who NEED to experience sacrificial love.
So…You have been given much. As a result, much will be required. What will be required of you? Well, let me tell you what I require of you.
I want nothing less than for you to CHANGE THE WORLD.
You see, my generation received this world from the greatest generation who ever live. We received this world from the generation who beat back Hitler and made the world safe for freedom. What did we do with this wonderful gift? Well, we REALLY messed it up.
Now it’s up to you to fix the mess that my generation made.
Now please understand that for a long time, I didn’t think this mess could be cleaned up. I honestly thought that there was no hope for this nation or the world as a whole. Why did I think that? Because as an assistant professor at Indiana University and Ball State University, I taught “our future leaders,” and they were nothing more than hedonists. They were in university so they could get a good job so they could make lots of money so they could buy lots of stuff and have lots of parties. That’s it. I’m telling you – that’s not the stuff of which great leaders are made. As a result, I was a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. I saw the future of this nation (and the world as a whole), and it wasn’t pretty.
Then something happened. I started experiencing students like you. Students who had graduated from homeschool.
Now…I didn’t know anything about homeschooling at the time. I didn’t know how it could be legal, and I certainly didn’t know how an untrained mother could produce a physics student who could ace all my tests. Nevertheless, the homeschool graduates were my BEST chemistry and physics students.
Not only were they academically superior to their peers, they were just plain different. They were at university because they believed that they had been given talents and that it would be a sin to squander those talents. They actually came to university because they wanted to make a difference. I can’t tell you how rare that is among university students today.
As I started working with homeschool graduates and then later with homeschooling students, I started experiencing a new sensation. I later learned that this sensation was called “optimism.” I actually now believe that there is hope for the world, and that hope rests on your shoulders, graduates. If this world is going to be fixed, it will be by people like you.
Now please understand that this is very personal for me. Homeschoolers changed me from a pessimist to an optimist. That was a radical change for my whole outlook on life. As a result, I will always be grateful for what homeschoolers like you have done for me.
For those of you who had to suffer through one or more of my textbooks, you might be surprised to learn that sometimes, words fail me. Often, when I am trying to communicate profound truths, I simply cannot come up with the words on my own. As a result, I sometimes rely on the words of others. Right now, I want to rely on the words of King Arthur.
At the end of the Broadway musical Camelot, Arthur is in a severe state of depression. His round table lies in ruins, his dream of Camelot is dead, and on the morrow, he will have to fight a battle against his best friend. It’s a battle he doesn’t want to fight, but he is forced to fight it for political reasons. At one time in my life, I felt just as Arthur does here.
He takes a walk in the woods, and he hears rustling from the bushes. Thinking it is the enemy, he challenges the person to come out of hiding. Out steps a little boy with homemade bow and arrows. Arthur tells the boy he shouldn’t be here – there is going to be a battle tomorrow. The boy says he knows. That’s why he is here. He heard of the dream of Camelot. He heard, “Not might IS right, but might FOR right.” He wants to defend that dream.
Suddenly, Arthur experiences a glimmer of optimism. He realizes that HIS dream of Camelot is dead, but Camelot can rise again, as long as enough people are affected by its ideals. He knights the boy on the spot and gives the boy his first orders. He is to run behind the lines, survive the battle, and return home to tell everyone of Camelot. Then…there will be hope for the future.
As the boy scurries off to fulfill his king’s commands, Sir Pellinore (who Arthur calls “Pellie”) enters. He asks, “Who’s that,” and Arthur replies:
“He is what we all are, Pellie, just one drop in the vast sea of humanity. But some of those drops sparkle, Pellie, some of those drops DO SPARKLE.”
There is a vast sea of humanity graduating at this time of year, but YOU are the drops that sparkle. Now go out there, AND CHANGE THE WORLD.
1. Daniel Golden, “Home-Schooled Kids Defy Stereotypes, Ace SAT Test,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb 11, 2000, pg. 1
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2. Robert J. Grossman, “Home is where the school is,” HR Magazine, 46:58-65, 2001
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3. Gary J. Knowles, “Studying Home Educated Adults,” University of Michigan Research Study, 1991
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4. Brian D. Ray, “Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits, National Home Education Research Institute, 2004
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