The following is the Baccalaureate address I shared on June 4, 2009:
What’s A Blessing?
- Good evening ladies and gentlemen, students, teachers, administrators, family and friends of Redmond High School’s Graduating Class of 2009!
- As we gather here this evening in the safety and security of these surroundings, I am reminded of the evening of my own high school graduation — an evening that my father and my two uncles attended together. Three very different men with one thing in common — they had each served our country in the Armed Forces. My father was in the Navy while one uncle was a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and the other was a corporal in Army. I am reminded this evening that our country is at war. A war that may all too often seems remote, distant and “out there somewhere.” We would be remiss if we didn’t pause during this time to recognize those who have or are presently serving in the Armed Forces of this great nation of ours. ( audience – Please hold your applause until I give you the high sign) Will you please stand and remain standing if I describe you in the following few sentences:
a. I you have previously served our country in any branch of our armed forces. – Please stand up.
b. If you are presently serving in an active or reserve duty capacity – Please stand up.
c. If you have a family member who has served or is presently serving (reserve or active duty) in our armed forces – Please stand up.
d. If you are presently enrolled in an ROTC program or a current member of our National Guard or Coast Guard – Please stand up.
Now – Let’s honor these folks with a tremendous round of applause.
Oh, what a blessing it is to enjoy the blessing of being a citizen of this country and to be here tonight. This subject, this gift, this privilege of being blessed is what I intend to share with you this evening. If you will bear with me for a few minutes and focus on the screen to my left and listen very carefully, I will begin after we watch the following together:
You Tube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY
What a blessing. Were you blessed by that? I certainly was. There are so many things we pretend to understand today. The meaning of certain words has a long history of changing over time, between cultures, among people.
There is nothing more uplifting to the human spirit than an unanticipated blessing. As the video of Scotland’s Susan Boyle reveals, when you open your mouth, everything changes. Within 72 hours of this video’s posting on the ITN Network’s site (as well as YouTube) there were over 20 million viewers of what we just watched together.
The word blessing, has several forms and meanings. Let’s take a look at a few:
- In our culture today, everybody wants to receive a blessing – particularly in economic times like these. Things like money, a job, a car, a place to live, a new cell phone, the newest MP3 player.
- For others, the blessing we yearn to receive is less tangible -like peace of mind, getting our parents and teachers off our case, the resolution of conflict, happiness, joy and serenity. We’ve all been in this position. Frankly, it’s part of life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring to be blessed.
- However, today in our culture, some have developed this mindset that they are entitled to receive a blessing. They expect it. They deserve it. This sense of entitlement has a voice: it says, “I am better than you are. It provides some with a perch to look down upon others. I affects the way some people walk….example strut…It certainly is recognizable by what people say.” We have all heard the voice of those infected with the disease of somehow being entitled to receive a blessing.
When Susan Boyle opened her mouth, nobody expected the blessing they received. It was the kind of blessing that possessed those very, very special elements that make certain blessings particularly unique:
a. It was completely unanticipated – completely unexpected and surprising.
b. It touched the soul of all concerned. It was infectious and became much larger than anyone had anticipated.
c. It was an act of courage.
d. It was authentic and sincere — It was — simply Susan.
Yes, a frumpy, middle-aged church volunteer from a small village in Scotland blessed the world recently by demonstrating that when you open your mouth, everything changes – depending upon what comes out of your mouth when you do open it – of course.
There are also those today who suggest that when you open your mind, everything changes – Well, that depends upon what you fill it with. In our culture today, knowledge seems to have gained a high place on the cultural pedestal many people have come to worship.
However, as the recent crisis across the spectrum of our financial system and the global economy has demonstrated, even the brightest, most knowledgeable people can get it wrong — diabolically wrong — when knowledge is not informed by time-tested wisdom and guided by moral truths that safeguard against the propensity of some very knowledgeable folks to fall prey to selfishness, greed, dishonesty, and the creation of myths and illusions — whose end result is the infliction of pain and despair upon tens of millions of others.
Remember – when you open your mind, everything changes – depending upon what you fill it with.
Finally, think about this for a moment — When you open your heart, everything changes. During the past four years, I have had the opportunity to be a first-hand witness to this truth — by observing the actions of many of you — the students, parents, families of this Class of 2009. I would be remiss if I did not mention the staff, teachers and administrators of the Redmond School District, as well as a number of our citizens, community leaders and elected officials. Let me share a few examples:
- I have seen you raise money for innumerable worthy causes – for example, the Sparrow Club — We need more hearts like yours in this country, on this campus and in this city.
- I have seen you come together and comfort one another in times of personal and familial tragedy, sharing one another’s pain. We need more compassionate citizens like you in this community and in this country.
- I have seen students from diverse ethnic backgrounds practice together for athletic events, and enjoy one another’s company socially afterwards — Friendships spawned across barriers that many in my generation have had a hand in erecting and maintaining — We need you to continue to show us the way where we seemed to have lost ours.
- I have witnessed students come together and make a moving film about the scourge of racism – a film that required guts, brutal honesty and the courage to stand up in front of family and community. We need you to continue to be bold, speak up and take action on issues where societal ills continue to hide behind the veil of silence.
- In this graduating class of 2009, I have seen students who subscribe to the Mormon, Muslim, and various Christian faith persuasions hang out, laugh and live life together. We need you to continue to teach us to cherish one another for who we are as individuals, spanning the crevasse that the people who subscribe to certain religious belief systems sometimes create.
- This class of 2009 has warmly welcomed students from other countries like Thailand, Germany, Turkey, China, Brazil, Chile and Finland into your midst who have chosen Redmond, and Redmond High School as the place where they can become more familiar with the United States of America. The only problem is that you have done this so well, many of these students don’t want to return to their country of origin when their stay here has concluded. We need you to continue to be ambassadors for Redmond, for central Oregon, for this country — to continue to teach us what it means to be global citizens in a world that desperately needs a kind word and warm embrace to others who come from a different place than we do, who look different than us, and may speak a different language.
- I have witnessed many in this class of 2009 become participants in the Redmond Education Vision community forums, and march from this campus to Redmond City Hall carrying banners urging voters to approve the $110 million dollar school facilities improvement bond that was passed in 2008. We need you to continue to come together and advocate constructively for desperately needed resource and infrastructure improvements within this community and any community you may reside in the future.
These are just a few, simple examples — This Class of 2009, as a resident of Redmond, it is my honor and privilege to declare unequivocally that we have been blessed by you.
As Redmond Mayor George Endicott shared in his State of the City address earlier this year, Redmond has a vision for its future. A cornerstone of this vision is the creation of 10,000 new century jobs here in Redmond by the year 2020. To make that happen, We need you.
Agricultural expertise, actors and actresses, architects, artists, actors, auto dealers, mechanics and repair personnel, aircraft industry specialists and those who make the honorable decision to serve in our country’s Armed Forces.
Bartenders, Baristas, bus drivers, bakers, barbers, bankers, business owners and band instructors.
Cattle ranchers, contractors, chefs, chiropractors, civil servants, childcare professionals, cowboys (cowgirls), crafts persons, computer specialists, community organizers and counselors.
Doctors, Developers, Dancers, Dentists, Designers and those gifted in working with our developmentally disabled.
Entrepreneurs, event planners, equestrians, excavators, engineers, entertainers, environmental professionals, escrow officers, persons dedicated to economic development where unemployment rates in central Oregon higher than the national average become a distant memory — and somebody to keep making Eberhard Dairy Products for me and my family.
Fair and Expo Center employees, fund raisers, firefighters, farmers, food and beverage industry personnel, foresters and forest service employees.
Grocers, Graphic artists, gardeners, guides and greens keepers.
Hairdressers, Hay and seed producers, hospice workers, hotel managers, hospitality industry workers, homemakers, those who work with the helpless, the hungry and the homeless, as well as skilled healthcare professionals.
Innovators, Internet gurus, Innkeepers and people who provide inspiration to others
Jewelers, Journalists, Jokers and those who have the gift of bringing joy to others.
Landscapers, lawyers, loggers, laborers legislators and lawmakers —who possess the ingenuity and courage to revise Oregon’s tax code so that it encourages business investment, bolsters economic vitality and the expansion of the state’s revenue stream, and no longer confronts us with huge cyclical revenue swings that cause massive budget cuts — threatening the livelihoods of our educators and the quality of the education we deliver to our students.
Mechanics, mortgage specialists, managers, musicians, manufacturers, metal fabricators and mental health professionals
Nutritionists, nurses, National Guard personnel and non-profit employees.
Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Obstetricians and those skilled in working with our Octogenarians.
Pastors, Programmers, Planners, Poultry producers, Photographers, Painters, Physical Therapists and Police Officers
Rabbis, Researchers, Retailers, Realtors, Restaraunteurs, Ranchers and Recreation leaders
Social workers, singers, social networking specialists, story tellers, scientists, compassionate people equipped to serve our seniors – and somebody to repair my shoes when Jerry at Redmond Shoe Repair retires.
Teachers – the truly talented professionals who inspire us to become all we can be. Transportation and telecommunications specialists.
Veterinarians, Volunteers, Vendors, Vegetable growers, veterans — and a variety of other occupations that don’t even exist yet. We also need vision casters – those gifted in outlining the possibilities that a path to progress may provide — a path that most of us cannot currently see.
Water quality specialists, wildlife management professionals, web designers, writers and wood workers.
X – people who will develop the unexpected breakthrough, solution, cure, product or service that does not currently exist today.
And last but not least, Zebra ranchers and Zookeepers…..well maybe not. Who knows?
The list of occupations I have just shared is a reminder that Redmond is Rising and we need the blessing that only you students can bring to the future of this community.
What’s a blessing? This is what the Redmond Class of 2009 has taught me:
- It’s not a material thing, as some would lead us to believe.
- It’s not the amount of knowledge you cram your mind with.
- It’s not the ability to spin illusions and manipulate others by virtue of the fancy, persuasive words that come out of your mouth.
- It’s not something a selfish, arrogant sense of entitlement will bring to you and yours.
What’s a blessing? Let me spell it out for you, as observing your actions over the past four years have defined it for me:
to Encourage – to explore
to Sacrifice, and to share
to Innovate and invigorate
to Nourish and nurture
to Give with Gratitude and Grace
It takes Guts to live as a Blessing. It’s a way of life — A way of living that this Redmond High School Class of 2009 has taught me to deeply appreciate. You have spelled it out for me by the way you have lived — through your actions — your behavior. This is the nature of the other war that each of us fight – to live our lives as a blessing for the benefit of others. It is not a war that is out there somewhere and remote — it in here (point at your heart). This is a war that can be won – as this class has demonstrated to me and this community.
This Redmond High School Class of 2009 has what Redmond requires to make Mayor George Endicott’s vision become a reality. Whatever path your journey may take after graduation, it is my hope, my prayer, that many of you will return to Redmond to lead this community into the future.
We need you. Redmond needs the gift of the blessing that only you can provide.
May God bless you on whatever path you take from here. May your lives speak the definition of a blessing in the future, as they have here during the past 4 years.
Thank you for blessing us Class of 2009.
May God give you the wisdom, guidance and guts to continue to live your life as a blessing to others.