Letter: A Message to the Graduating Class of 2012
School Board Member-elect Ellen Purdy offers suggestions to Osbourn High School graduating class of 2012.
School Board Member-Elect Mrs. Ellen Purdy will be attending the Driverless
Car Summit in Detroit, Michigan, June 11-13 so will be out of town during
the OHS graduation. Since she is unable to attend in person she has
provided the following message to graduates:
Dear Osbourn High School Graduating Class of 2012,
Let me congratulate you on your accomplishment…you have achieved an important milestone in life. It is both a completion milestone and an initiation milestone. You have completed your childhood and are about to step into the rest of your lives. I have some suggestions to offer if you are interested:
Be brave. Never stop listening. Speak truth to power.
Being brave is not only the province of our police, fire fighters, and armed forces. It is a foundational characteristic that sees us through whatever life serves. Now more than ever you will need to be brave. Why? As an adult you will continuously be faced with the choice to do the “hard right” or the “easy wrong”.
It takes real bravery to choose to do the hard right, and frankly many of us faced moments where we chose the easy wrong instead. Many times that easy wrong was the choice to simply do nothing. As Robert Kennedy once noted, “Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world that yields most painfully to change.”
You will inherit the world as you take your place as the adults and leaders. How will you change your world for the better? Will you simply stand by and do nothing when you see an injustice or a need or an opportunity, or will you step up and do the hard right? I say, be brave.
How will you recognize such a choice? Just listen. Michael J. Lavine expressed a most powerful insight that I would like to pass on to you: “when you stop listening, you stop learning, and when you stop learning, you stop being effective”. Listen closely and with an open mind. You will be amazed at the wisdom you gain, the opportunities that will open themselves up to you and the truths that will stun you, all because you took the time to genuinely listen.
Every time you hear an opinion, a fact, a story, it contains within it some insight that will add to your store of knowledge. R. Buckminster Fuller observed, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Learning a new truth, a new fact, a new context allows you to connect information in new ways and leads you to understand how to perform that one act that will have a lasting positive effect on your world. You cannot leave the world a better place if you do not continuously learn because the world does not stand still. Will you simply go along for the ride, or will you be one of those who steer the world to something better than it has known to date? I say never stop listening.
I ask that you take your place in the world with integrity. That is a tall order but you have it within you to do this. M. H. McKee noted, “Integrity is one of several paths – it distinguishes itself from others because it is the right path…and the only one upon which you will never get lost.”
It is so easy in our increasingly globalized society with nearly 24/7 connectivity and multiple cultural influences, to lose sight of what truly matters. We live at such a fast pace, surrounded by social networks, that the irreverent tweet can replace the weightier matter. Without integrity, it is all too easy to become swept up in the social tide. Take a moment to reflect on what you see and check your heading. Is following where the latest tweet or post is leading the hard right or the easy wrong? Are you on the correct path or are you at risk of becoming lost?
Never compromise your integrity. I promise there will be times in your relationships and career you must choose a path. William J.H. Boetcker suggests, “That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.” You are the only one guaranteed to live with you for the rest of your life. If your co-workers, friends, bosses, spouse, ask you to pursue a path that is the easy wrong what will you do?
There will always be those in power (co-workers, supervisors, or elected officials) who have the ability to impact your life and that of others. Will you meekly follow their lead, or when you perceive a wrong, will you respectfully speak truth to power? This is extremely tough, because often the situation will have a lot at stake for you personally. Are you willing to risk it? What is more important to you, integrity and self-respect, or money, power, influence or fame?
The key is to remember the permanency of those things. Money, power, influence, fame can be fleeting but integrity and self-respect are for the rest of your life. Those around you will recognize and respond to what you value. The response to integrity and self-respect is very different from the response to money (often envy), power (often resented), influence and fame (often exploited). These qualities are at times on the opposite side of a trade. Are you willing to give up your integrity, and thereby your self-respect in exchange for those things? If not, then be brave. You have listened, learned and contemplated. You know what it right and what is wrong. I say speak truth to power.
Hold your heads high Class of 2012, keep your feet firmly on the path of integrity, and do us proud! Be brave, never stop listening, and speak truth to power.
Ellen M. Purdy