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Chester County Press

Editorial: 'You will radically transform whatever moment you're in'

06/04/2019 10:04AM ● By Richard Gaw
Every year at this time, the Chester County Press attends the commencement exercises for four high schools: Avon Grove, Kennett, Oxford and Unionville. While the elegance of mortar boards, tassles, graduation gowns in school colors and the endless roll call of names take center stage there, these events take on another persona – an invisible one – that has all of the feel of a bus stop, a waiting room or a semi-colon breath in a long soliloquy.

These are the moments of pause between the exhaustible efforts it took to graduate high school and the tabula rasa unknown of what will happen next. For the hundreds of high school graduates the editorial staff of this newspaper will document in the coming weeks, the vast majority of them will continue to pursue their education. Others will enter our nation’s military forces or the workforce, but no matter their destination, they are bound together at these ceremonies by the great unknown of what awaits their future.

To look at them, row after row, resplendent in their attire, is to see a collective swirl of dreams. It is to see heartbreak and failure. It is to see the great stumble of effort and the willingness to rise back up. It is to see each graduate in the form of an individual attempting to wedge themselves into the framework of a world that doesn’t yet know the true calling of what they wish to achieve. It is to see their eventual arrival, their dreams fulfilled.

Every year at this time, the Chester County Press combs the recent archives of commencement speeches given by our nation’s most prominent figures that we feel penetrate deeper than a standard pep talk and into the core of what it means to be a young person at that moment, wondering how to properly fill the spaces of what it means to live a complete life.

If you are the parent of a soon-to-be graduate, we ask that you share these quotes with your son or daughter, and we’ll see you all very soon.

“When you respect the idea that you are sharing the earth with other humans, and when you lead with your nice foot forward, you’ll win, every time. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but it comes back to you when you need it. We live in an age of instant gratification, of immediate likes, and it is uncomfortable to have to wait to see the dividends of your kindness. But I promise you, it will appear exactly when you need it.”

Actress Kristen Bell at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts

 “So if you’re waiting for a sign, this is it…You are the person who’s going to go out there and make things happen for yourself. And that’s a terrifying and amazing responsibility. You deserve joy – not in ten years, but now. So try to be equal parts tough and gentle with yourself. Take things one step at a time. Work hard when no one is looking. And don’t let anybody say you never called them back.”

Actress Katie Holmes at the University of Toledo

“When I was a child, my family was poor. No lawyer or judges lived in my neighborhood. I knew nothing about the Supreme Court. … You cannot dream of becoming something you do not know about. You have to learn to dream big. Education exposes you to what the world has to offer, to the possibilities open to you.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Manhattan College

“The truth is, you cannot fix everything. But what you can do, here and now, is make a decision, because life is about decisions. And the decision is that you will use your life in service; you will be in service to life. You will speak up. You will show up. You will stand up. You will sit in. You will volunteer. You will vote. You will shout out. You will lend a hand. You will offer your talent and your kindness however you can, and you will radically transform whatever moment you’re in – which leads to bigger moments.”

Author and producer Oprah Winfrey at Colorado College