Back in 2010 I went to a high school graduation ceremony and I was blessed to hear Ron Newkirk addresses the students at FCHS, Ron was kind enough to let me post this. -These words he shared are so relevant for what is going on today. Enjoy!
FCHS Commencement Ceremony
Friday, June 18, 2010 Ron Newkirk
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly – so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Those were the words of Theodore Roosevelt and tonight I challenge you to enter the arena, to get dirty with the dust and sweat and blood of a conflict that matters for eternity.
You have been taught since early childhood what to believe. But, the question you now must answer is: ‘Do you know how to live?’ For, faith without works is dead!
Your faith is not a security blanket. Neither is it a ‘get out of hell free card’. Your faith is a weapon of war.
I challenge you to put on the whole armor of God and see the deceptions, the false philosophies, the baseless enmities, and the shallow, self-absorbed distractions that keep you myopic and without vision, not only for tomorrow, but, more importantly, for today!
Do not stand idly by without first understanding that to forego the battle is to hand over control of your communities, of your families, of your personal lives, of your freedoms, of your joy, and of your individual and collective souls, to the enemy.
You are not called to live in oblivion to the pain and suffering and moral degradation that surround you.
You are not called to perform another symbolic gesture in the name of Christ!
You are not called to sit on the sidelines and to look without seeing.
You are called to see not only what is, but that which is crucial – what should and can be. And you must understand there is no resolution without confrontation.
There is no victory without conflict. There is no victory without defeat.
Because we have already accepted various forms of defeat by way of concessions, accommodations, and compromise, we have allowed ourselves to become our own worst enemies!
To a vast degree, we have been infantilized and relegated to nothing more than politically correct
speech. We know we are not supposed to be evil, but we live like we are supposed to be neutral. Yet, there is no neutral ground. We have exchanged our faith, our sword, for false hopes, for safety, for comfort, fun, stability, and entitlements.
We have become dependent upon the “experts”/the “authorities” to handle the problems of our families and communities – when, in fact, we are our brothers’ keepers.
And, just how has hope for the future been proffered to you, when we have become obsessed with youth, as if only youth can save us, when, in the end, we all face the same judgment?
Perhaps, this singular obsession, this obsession with youth, that is now passed from generation to generation, is the greatest contributor to our inability to stand as a united front.
There was a time when the elderly were viewed as the exalted class, venerated members of the family and society – repositories of great wisdom to whom the highest respect and honor was due.
We have allowed the unfriendly forces of vain philosophies that cater to and nurture self-esteem above all else to sever the bond and mutual respect between young and old and their resultant effectiveness in maintaining a proper perspective on community, family and relationships.
We have replaced the building blocks of community and family with permissiveness and aberrant behavior.
We have begun to look to the future for the answers to the problems of today when many of the answers are sitting alone in nursing homes, retirement villages, hospitals, studio apartments and hospices or on downtown sidewalks and street corners and in city parks and anywhere else we have allowed our elderly to wander off, out of sight.
We have eschewed the wisdom of the venerable in favor of placating our youth, entertainment, self-gratification, and the pursuit of peace at all costs.
These are fatal mistakes.
The Bible warns and encourages us, “It is better to go into the house of mourning than to go into the house of feasting.”
We cannot keep looking to the future when our voices are being silenced, our values ridiculed and obliterated, and the building block of community – the family, is being disintegrated today!
We cannot, we cannot, expect God to fix what is wrong with our world when we, His hands and feet, do nothing.
The Bible tells us, and they are actually Jesus’ words, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
We were created to live in a garden, in right relationship to God and to each other, and we have, instead, found ourselves living in a wilderness.
And, instead of trying to recreate the garden, we continue to build monuments in the wilderness to ourselves.
How different would our lives be, how different would our world be if we sought to recreate the garden?
This notion of putting others first, before ourselves, is radical and flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Yet, this is exactly what is needed if we are even to get a glimpse of the garden.
You have been told, perhaps while you were still even in the womb, that you are the future. Every year, those words are echoed at graduation ceremonies all across the country and the world.
The truth is – you, working with the old, visionaries and dreamers, working together, guided by the Word of God, are our hope for today!
And, that truth is not for graduating seniors only.
You don’t get a measurable dispensation of wisdom on the day that you graduate or turn 18. The light doesn’t come on at that moment so that you know what to do now and in every future circumstance.
Nothing miraculous happens in that regard.
But, you have the abilities and have had the abilities for some time to make significant, life- changing, God-honoring contributions to your families and communities today!
Some of you have already learned that lesson. The miracle begins at home! Young and old, working together facing the encroaching tide of immorality, disunity, and lack of vision, are the answers to the pressing issues of the day. You must not go it alone. We must not go it alone. There is an old African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is the beginning. Working together is progress. Staying together is success.”
For too long, we have demanded and expected too little of each other. Let us dare to demand and
expect more love, more honor, more respect, more obedience, more diligence, more charity, more servant-hood, more visions and more dreams while working together to recreate the garden in which we were created to live together.
I read somewhere a couple of months ago that the average American is inundated with about 3,000 commercial messages a day – messages that pressure us to be tolerant of all kinds of moral perversions.
The moral and family values that made our culture strong, secure and good have collapsed under the constant promotion of worldly passions and the removal of all things Christian from public life.
My voice alone is too small to compete with 3,000 messages a day. Your voices alone are too small to compete with 3,000 messages a day. But, our voices, in unison, can drown out and defeat those messages and reduce them to a whisper in the dark.
In the words of Katie Magiera, one of your graduating classmates here tonight, “It’s kill or be killed!”
Your dreams and goals are not too big. They are too small. They are too small because they are shaped by the limitations of a world that has lost sight of the garden.
A victorious life is not a risk free life nor is it a carefree life, a life free of heartache and disappointment.
A victorious life is a life that is spent in a worthy cause. And our cause, your cause has been defined and blessed by Our Creator.
We must return to the blessings and responsibilities that we have to each other and to God to overcome the sickening tragedies and the pain and suffering that befall our communities and families all too often.
And, so graduating class of 2010, I challenge you to get dirty – to eagerly enter the arena and wear the dust and sweat and blood with great confidence, knowing victory and defeat and never exchanging your God-given purpose for selfish gain.
Congratulations and God bless you all!