Graduation is a meaningful beginning of adulthood

| Tom Bengtson | June 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

Thirty-four years ago, on June 3, I delivered the commencement address for the class of 1979 at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Richfield. I challenged my classmates and myself to go out and change the world for the better. We aren’t called to blend into the secular world, I said; we are called to make a positive difference. I summarized my message by saying: We can make the most of life by exchanging love for evil wherever possible.

So I ask myself whether I have done that during my adult life, and I give myself a mixed grade. In three and a half decades, there have been ups and downs, positives and negatives. I trust that most of my classmates were more successful than I was.

Many changes

On the one hand, a lot has changed since 1979, but on the other hand we continue to face many of the same challenges: attacks on human dignity, growing secularism, and threats to family. If I were to address a high school graduating class today, I would deliver largely the same message I delivered 34 years ago. But I might add a few things, such as:

  • Continue to learn about your faith. Don’t assume that because you have graduated from high school you now know all you need to know about God. Take advantage of parish, archdiocesan and Church-wide programs to dig deeper into an understanding of the faith.
  • Constantly seek the grace of the sacraments. As an adult, you will need God’s grace even more than you did during your teen years. Adult challenges require adult responses. Preparation will be the key. The best preparation starts with regular confession and Eucharist.
  • Be not afraid. John Paul the Great gave us this motto, which serves us in so many situations. The world will always tell you that you can’t do something. There will always be people putting up road blocks, discouraging you, and trying to prevent you from doing anything out of the ordinary. Don’t listen to them. Fearlessly serve God with your life. You have tremendous potential, and God wants you to live up to it.

Many high school graduates will enter college in the fall; others will get a job; some will do both. People often tell graduates to think about the future, plan a career, start putting money away for retirement. That advice has some merit, but it should not be heeded at the expense of living in the present. Don’t get so focused on the future that you forget the here and now. Really listen to those around you; be there for them; don’t miss an opportunity to connect with family members, friends, classmate, co-workers and others. Don’t take the people around you for granted.

If you are looking for a job, remember that one of the key benefits of youth employment is the references you develop. Far more valuable than the money you will earn on a part-time job are the professional relationships you develop with people who one day may vouch for your earnestness, diligence and other qualities that career-job employers seek in new hires.

They call the graduation ceremony a “commencement exercise” for a reason; the conclusion of a high school education marks a great beginning to adulthood. Blessings to all graduates in the Class of 2013!

A small business owner and writer, Bengtson can be reached at

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Category: Faith and the Workplace