Dr. L. Randolph Lowry, president of Lipscomb University, shared this message with the more than 900 graduates who received their degrees during commencement earlier this month.
I often use a quote from business writer Max Dupree who once said, “You can’t be who you need to be, if you remain where you are.”
When students come to a university they have left somewhere to come to a new place to start their college education. The result of going somewhere else is that today you are receiving your college degree. In order to become all that you can be you often have to leave where you are. The reality is that today it is time to think about it again … because it’s almost time to leave. While you’ve been an important part of this academic community and we love you, the reality is, it is time to go because God has planned for you more than we can offer to you.
I share with you two wishes as you prepare to go.
Go with a sense of courage. While in college you have become comfortable in relationships with faculty and friends or classmates, life in the residence halls, your daily routines and the list goes on and on. Now, it takes courage to leave all of that and walk forward. It also takes courage knowing that in walking forward, there may be times you will not be successful. But part of success is failure. There will be times when you will face difficult moments. It takes courage to walk into that.
Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, said after spending nearly 30 years in prison, “Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by the number of times I fell and got up again.” Even when you face a difficult moment, we believe you have the character and you have the ability to get up again.
Go with a sense of confidence. This past year has been very different for all of us. One of the biggest lessons during this time is a recognition of things we do not control. Sixteen months or so ago we weren’t scared to travel, to go to a restaurant or to be with other people. The world has changed and now we all have the need for a bit of confidence. You can leave here with confidence in your education and in your ability to walk boldly into the next chapter of your journey. You can be confident that you are what the world needs.
In this final moment together as we think about Max Dupree’s statement, you came from somewhere, and now it is time for you to go. But no matter what happens in life you will always be a part of this community. We look forward to seeing your successes and to sharing the joys of your life.
I close with a benediction written by the late Peter J. Gomes of Harvard Divinity School. “For these young scholars who are to depart from us, bearing within them the honors of this day, we give things and pray that their learning will be glorified by their wisdom, and their lives amplified by their virtue. For those who have borne the burdens of the day, we give Thee thanks for their sacrifice, their service, their willingness to invest themselves and their treasure in the lives of others. Of all of us who will remain to teach and serve and to whom is entrusted the place of this ancient and lively endeavor. Give that due sense of all thy mercies, that we may be grateful and faithful stewards.”