ON MY MIND: Motivating the masses

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

I love the annual segment on NBC news when they feature bits of commencement addresses from colleges across the country. Each year I get all teary as we rewind and rewind and rewind trying to capture every single nuance and tidbit of advice. Whether you are graduating this year or graduated years ago, there is a nugget for you to grab on to.

“There is no script. Live your life. Be in this moment now,” offered Dick Coastal.

At the University of Virginia, Eric Idle sang, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Da dum, da dum, da dum da dum da dum.

Mitt Romney, at Southern Michigan University, said, “You only live once. Don’t spend it in safe shallow waters.” I think that is superb advice for every age. What kind of water are you living in?

Richard Engel, the NBC correspondent who seems to be in every war zone news story I see, brought stark reality to shake people up. “You are all incredibly lucky. If you live in Aleppo, Syria, your main concern is just staying alive. You have choices. Don’t squander this opportunity.”

Brian Williams, another NBC news giant said, “We call our online world a community, but that’s just to make us feel. But it’s not that. This is. The people to your right and the people to your left, with hopes and dreams and fears.”

Singer, actor, Julie Andrews (some of you may just call her Mary Poppins or Maria from “The Sound of Music”) advised, “Keep learning as you go. Acknowledge there will be fear and adversity and then go out and kick butt.” I love that. I am dealing with a big fear issue right now and I need to remember that. If you see me kicking my own butt around town, you will know why.

Michelle Obama said, “I hope you never lose sight of what brought you to this day.” Have you? What brought you to where you are in your life right now?

The one that made me choke up was Winton Marsalis at The University of Vermont. The emotion cracking his voice as he shared these personal words was gripping. “Still to us you will always be our baby. From every changed diaper to every bedtime story, to every fight over curfew. All of the triumphs. All of the failures. We are so proud of you.” I’m asking you, reader, does that sum up parenting or what?

Our own local giant, Tim O’Brien, Greenville High School teacher, gave the commencement speech there. He encouraged the students to be grateful for all they have. “Help out those less fortunate. Be passionate about what you do. Be the wind that starts the flames of change. Enjoy life.” He also shared a wonderful quote by Eli Wiesel. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht spoke for Montcalm Community College’s commencement. He stressed the fact that life throws you curve balls and is not what you necessarily plan or expect. Words of wisdom, for sure.

Most of you who will read this, graduated from high school or college a while ago. We likely forgot our commencement messages. They are always full of wisdom, though, and we can have a better today and tomorrow if we take the time to read and be inspired. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Maybe one of these motivating messages will kick your butt. We don’t need to be wearing a cap and gown to be uplifted and encouraged.

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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