One said in summing up the graduates’ futures: “Be respected and loved.”
Another on a different night to a different group of graduates said, “Be kind.”
These two pronouncements made by two different school superintendents at two different graduations were made 5 nights apart and less than two miles apart, and yet the difference between the two are light years apart.
The first one was saying to the graduates, in essence, to make sure that people are treating you right. The focus is on you and how you are being dealt with. On the outside that sounds fairly innocent as we do want people to treat us right, and there are times when we may have to stand up for our rights, but taken to its logical conclusion without any qualification at the heart it is simply telling the graduates to look out for number one, or in even plainer terms, to be self-centered in their thinking. Assessment of the future is based on what we get from others.
The other view is vastly different. It encourages people to think not of what they get, but of what they receive. This is the cry that has gone out in presidential inaugurations, in military mottoes and from Jesus Christ.
According to the scholars I have read, the very concept of kindness as we conceive of it did not exist in the ancient world until Christianity came along. While being kind seems weakness to many, it is really being super strong. It was Jesus who defined kindness and he defined it in blood. To treat people better than they deserve is the sign of real strength.
Every day we graduate from what we have been to what we are. My advice to graduates is to follow both sets of advice, but to change the words of the first charge around so as to make it compatible with the second. Be kind to others by respecting and loving them.
3 years ago