Commencement Speech to the Class of 2015, Shining Mountain Waldorf High School
June 5, 2015
It is a true honor and an immense pleasure to be here with you all today. I look back with more and more fondness as each year passes on my time at this wonderful school. I see how this has blossomed and developed, and the teachers, administration, parents and incredible students who make up this awesome community, -- and it makes my heart smile. Thank you all for being here, thank you all for welcoming me back into your midst with such graciousness. Thank you Class of 2015, for being ready - poised to leap and fly, inspiring us all with your eager spirits and earnest vivacity for life ahead!
As noted, I attended Shining Mountain from Kindergarten up through my senior year, so it was not really until college that I realized the uniqueness of my experience here on these grounds. I knew the world was 'different' than my life at Waldorf, and I craved that difference! This is quite possibly what these graduating wonders beside me are feeling today - "Let me 'freeeeee!" And that is how it should be - that desire for the next, that tremendous youthful passion for one's own life to begin - at last!
Now that my life has 'begun", so to speak - outside of Shining Mountain - I find myself coming back to Waldorf. As it often happens, once I separated and could see the fruits of my education and its blessings, only then did I really, truly appreciate it. And now I have committed a good deal of my life to continuing to give back - to young minds, hearts and souls who are stepping into the world, to educating and supporting them to reach their highest potential. I firmly believe this desire was a seed that was planted during my time at Shining Mountain. This seed of greater and deeper connection with humanity and the world around me. I see this same seed planted and rooted in these graduating seniors here today.
In coming to write this speech, I spent much time in reflection on this school, my Waldorf education and the community which held me as I grew within its folds. I tried to recall the words that I listened to as I sat where these graduating seniors sit now, to really bring myself back into that time in my life - to what I wanted to hear, and what had stuck with me ---- and ---- I could not remember one word from the speaker that day! I thought back on my other two graduations and those commencement speeches, and realized that I remembered nothing from the other two speeches either!
Goodness - were the speakers that uninteresting? Why did nothing stick with me from their shared wisdom? Was I not listening? You know - where was I in my heart and mind when they spoke that I came to this point later in my life retaining zero of what was offered. But then I thought more on those graduation ceremonies, and what I do remember about each of them is how I felt, where I sat, the people around me, and more importantly I remember the time. The moment. The sense of standing on a precipice, about to fly, about to jump, forward leaning, and knowing that I was not going to ever return to that point in my life. Feeling the joy in that, feeling the sadness in that. There are not many points in our lifetimes where we are given the opportunity, given the time to experience that pivot point, that mark 'between' ending and beginning. In some ways, perhaps commencement speeches are just a way to elongate and mark this time, this rite of passage in one's life.
And so, with that, instead of my talking, we are just going to sit together in silence for the next 10 minutes and self reflect. One --- two ---- three ---- and go..... Just kidding.
As a Waldorf alum myself, I am sure that you graduating class of 2015 have had plenty of time to self-reflect over this year. So, perhaps we can sing a round instead. NO? Or finger knit a friendship bracelet together? Spell our names in Eurythmy together? Write or draw or paint or compose an expression that signifies that deeper meaning of this moment in time, here right now?
I feel that they are not enthused...
Fiiiiine, a speech it is. Good thing I just happen to have one here.
In all seriousness, even as I joke, there is so much that I relish about being able to mark time in the variety of Waldorfian ways that I just noted - to knit, to move, to self reflect, to create and shape a moment, to truly feel and experience a connected moment in relationship to others and the rest of the world around us. Here.
There are many people in the world that are not able to do this. Here, I learned about what it meant to be in relationship, what it meant to foster true and lasting friendships, what it meant to connect with those who were younger and older than me - on equal footing. What it meant (and means) to be a part of the world, interconnected with it as human beings - searching and stumbling but always striving. And I see these same yearnings and these same desires and these same blossomed capacities in these graduating seniors. Their striving to come into the world, their striving to become in the world.
In honor of this readiness to 'become', and in recognition of this pinnacle on which they stand, I want to speak not about the future, not about the past, but about this moment, right now, in time, in your lives, in our lives.
So. What is going on right now. Here we sit, in a Festival Hall that has held hundreds of students, heard shouts of pride, wails of dramatic despair, music of supreme beauty.. and today it holds all of us within it. Outside these walls, our great world around us is spinning, rushing, and time seems to be racing faster today then ever before. Right now all over the world, babies are being born, bees are gathering honey, beards are being shaved and grown, puppies are eating shoes, war is ringing and echoing out into the night, symphonies are resounding in concert halls, and we are all here now - in this room, together.
Outside these walls, books are being written and shared and new glorious discoveries are being made, oil is being cracked, families are being torn up, and people are falling in love by the thousands, and we all are here, with this class, now. We are here to celebrate these fine beings in this very moment who are about to take their first steps out into the world - take their first steps as beacons of hope and light and strength and truth. We are here to celebrate and send this senior class of 2015 off with embedded feelings of pride and confidence and belief in their capacities to do good in the world.
Graduates, I know that some of you know your next steps, some of you are still searching, all of you are desiring to become and to find your path and your passion and your meaning - and we are all here to witness and support you in your journey. Right now, that is what every single person in this room is doing - witnessing you, celebrating you, holding you. May you take this into your hearts and very core of your beings and always be able to draw on the strength of this moment, right here. Now.
For as you take your steps out into the world in these next days, weeks, months, years and beyond, it is hard. The challenges will come, the struggles will arise, and what will you do? You will face them. Like the hundreds of stories that you have heard about through your grades and high school years of heroes, warriors, saints, explorers and visionaries, when challenges come, you will meet them. For you are ready. You are equipped. You are prepared.
When you feel doubt in those dark moments ahead, may you remember all of us here today, facing you, holding you, giving you strength. At those times when you are all alone and have no map or light to guide your way, I urge you to think and feel everyone who holds you right now, and with no light to guide your way, I urge you to become your own light. If it is dark, choose to shine. If you are lost, choose to find not "the right way out", but choose to find the right way in - to your self, your path, your truth. Your meaning. You can never be lost when you are your own True North.
Life brings you much less of what you expect from it and much more than you could ever hope from it. Remember that meaning and purpose in life come by doing. By doing what you love, not only will doors open, but meaning and purpose will be found. I promise. "Just keep swimming," the wise fish Dory in the movie "Finding Nemo" said. And wise she was! Forward movement, however big or small, is still forward. Every movement, every action, is a drop in the cosmos of life around you, rippling out in directions and making connections that you can not even fathom yet. Just keep swimming.
And while you are swimming, clothe yourself in kindness, drape yourself in patience, wrap yourself in goodness. Nothing magnifies life opportunities like simply being a good human being. Doors will open, hands will reach out to help, bridges will be built for you, all by simply being kind. Kindness is not talked about much these days it seems. And it is the most important of human capacities. No matter where you are or what you are doing, the opportunity to be kind awaits you. And kindness is not being weak, it is not letting others walk over you by being 'nice', for being kind includes being kind to your self - valuing your self, your path, your presence in this world as much as you value others. Valuing others' place in this world as much as you value your own. True kindness comes from seeing one's self in others, and seeing other's in one's self.
My dear graduates, not everyone is kind in this world - this is no big news flash to you I am sure, but, kindness radiates and permeates like nothing else. And not just this life, but lifetimes to come. Want to make a lasting impression? Be kind. Be gracious. For robed in this kindness, you will attract others of that same cloth; draped in goodness, you will experience the highs and lows of life just like everyone else, but you will heal more quickly from the grievances, you will digest the joy with greater ease, because you will have others around you who see you, recognize you and hold you in goodness.
My friends, you have some experiences ahead - sadness that will root deeper into your bones than you might ever have thought possible, and extreme and wild happiness beyond anything you could ever fathom! And so is life - these extremes, of the highs and the lows, played out mainly in the middle. And it is all glorious, supreme FULL. My heart leaps in thinking of the world that lies before you at your feet!
You, my graduates, are beacons. You, my graduates, are pioneers - of truth and light and transformation. You may not wish to be the bearers of such gifts, you may rather not be pioneers, but you have no choice. Your gifts are needed. Your insights, thoughts, words and actions are needed to inspire hope, to inspire beauty, to inspire change and truth. You have come into this world at this time with a purpose, even if you do not know exactly where your next steps will lead you and what the name of that purpose is. Know that the world awaits your unique and glorious offerings, be they big or small, great or tiny. Know that the world needs you. Know that there is responsibility in meeting this need.
In talking about this mighty thing in life called 'purpose' - I actually want to let you in a on a little secret though - most, if not all, of us here are still searching for our 'ultimate purpose and meaning' too! And while boy - wouldn't it be good to be able to define it? - we do not have to; it is not a life requirement! No one is going to fail us or graduate us with or without this definite knowledge. We just have to keep swimming, forward moving and ever striving. We may never actually be able to name our life meaning and purpose, give it a title or emboss it on a wall, but we can swim in its current. When you find this current, you will know it, you will feel it. Quite possibly you are already in its flow. Release into it. Trust it. Let it carry you.
Many of you shared with me yesterday your future plans and visions; many of you do not yet have a clear picture of what direction to go in next or what you want to 'be when you grow up'. But I believe you all do know very clearly what you want out of life, what you want to do while you are here. And that, my friends, is the compass point to follow. I challenge you all, and everyone in this room - I pose to you all that you actually do know where you want to go next, that you do know who you are, all supremely well. This knowledge is there within you. It may be covered up by layers upon layers of others' thick expectations, it may be hidden from view by society's formulas for what it means to be successful, for what society deems approved and appropriate, it may be squashed under years of dusty false imaginings of self, but given the opportunity, it is waiting to jump out at you and yell "Here I am! Let's go - onward and upward hooooo!" You may hear this call a year from now, 14 years from now, 60 years from now.... But it will reveal itself. You were born as the one and only knowledge keeper of all that is supremely YOU. I urge you to be gentle with this phenomenal self, be kind to your dreams and hopes; your path will unfold. It already is unfolding. All you have to do is show up and take a step. Be present. Be awake and alert. Your call may come ever so soon. Be ready for it.
My dear Class of 2015, to quote one of my favorite poets, Mr. Walt Whitman: “You are so much sunshine in every square inch." I challenge you today and every day in your life ahead to take every single square inch of your sunshine saturated self and ignite the world, remind others that they too, are inherently phenomenal; lift one another up in kindness; seek out the truth and meaning and pricelessness within everyone and everything and showcase and share it unabashedly. We need your light, we need your truth, we need your wholeheartedness and bravery. As the Hopi Elders just to the south of our shining mountains have said: YOU are the ones we have been waiting for.
Well, my fine graduates, you have arrived. Let us wait no longer.