What succinct and important advice would you offer the class of 2002?

In President John F. Kennedy’s speech to American University in 1963, he announced a halt to atmospheric nuclear testing and pledged to work for “not merely peace in our time, but peace for all time.”

According to the Washington Post, commencement speakers today are not sought for their rhetoric about “big issues,” but for their “star power and ability to amuse the grads.”

That explains why Goldie Hawn was invited to share her wisdom at American University’s Commencement this year and her advice to the grads was, “it is now time to attend the college of you.” Even Hawn fans would agree this advice is slightly less substantial than that of Kennedy thirty-nine years ago.

Having observed this trend, Chuck Colson notes the aptness of Phillip Rieff’s description of the “triumph of the therapeutic” and says that this combination of amusement and self-focus is found both and culture and the church.

Not all students seek entertainment. My experience with this generation is that they are hungry for learning and are disappointed when turning to their parent’s generation, often eager to be liked and equipped to deliver the intellectual equivalence of fast food but not substantial meals

Francis Schaeffer saw this thirty years ago and reported, “I find that everywhere I go the children of Christians are being lost to historic Christianity. They are being lost because their parents are unable to understand their children and therefore cannot help them in their time of need. We have left the next generation naked in the face of twentieth century thought by which they are surrounded.”

As evidence of this generation’s appetite for substance, I offer the diary entry made the day before Cassie Bernall died at Columbine High School. She said, “Now I have given up on everything else I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the mighty power that brought Him back to life again, and to find out what it means to suffer and to die with him. So, whatever it takes I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.”

Now imagine you’ve been given the chance to speak at Commencement 2002. What succinct and important advice would you offer the class of 2002?

My thoughts on this subject were triggered by my friend Pat Hanlon. He took the time to write some personal advice to his daughter Erin, who graduates from High School this June 2002. His comments are not succinct but brilliant (and please note, copyrighted).

Success is for the people of the precipice. The entrepreneurs, the innovators, the risk takers, the dreamers. People who see magnificent forests where others see petty acorns. Those who remember that the avant-garde was the line of soldiers first into battle and the first to be killed, and they went out anyway. Never stop thinking. Proactively seek out fresh answers. Find partners. Remember that you are only as smart as the people you surround yourself with. There are thousands of people out there who are smarter than you are. Seek them out. Nurture them. Reward them. Because they are the next step. They are the future. Become cosmonauts of change. Motivate forward. Find your buzz. Remember that life is a continual uncovering. Most of all, discover the things that thrill you and do them. In the end, they are the only reason to get up in the morning. ‚©Pat Hanlon, Thinktopia

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