Advice For Graduates

By Bishop Michael Goings

If I had to share a word with the graduation Class of 2013, it would be the following.  You have entered a stage of your life that can be classified as a new beginning.  From the time you entered pre-kindergarten until this present hour, you have been traveling toward this day.  This new beginning can be a time of consternation and apprehension and uncertainty if you failed to prepare for this inevitable day.  Contrarily, it can be a time of optimism, anticipation and enthusiasm if you are prepared for it.  I would like to use this commentary as an opportunity to challenge and encourage our newest graduates on their journey.

He, who fails to plan, plans to fail.  This is a very familiar saying that perhaps all of you (graduates) have heard or read about nearly all of your lives.  Having a plan or vision for your life is essential to your success and wellbeing.  Many have failed at the stage where you are now because they did not have a plan for their future.  You are not going to succeed or arrive at your destiny by chance but by choice.  I was almost a victim of failing to plan in my early high school days and wandered aimlessly in the wilderness for several years until I finally came to my senses.  Graduate, even if you are still caught in the valley of decisions and uncertainty, you can still devise a plan and strategy for your life and future.  Don’t delay another day.  You must start setting your goals and charting your course right now.  The longer you wait the more difficult it is going to be to get started.

Once you have decided what you want to achieve in life, stick with it.  The adage that says “a winner never quits and a quitter never wins” is a true saying.  Few people succeed at their goals without persistence.  Most of the great achievers in history were people who persisted in spite of many hindrances and failures.  What people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Colonel Harland Sanders (founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken) had in common was their perseverance and stubborn determination.  These words of Edison capture and convey the point I am trying to make here.  “Genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.”  Though I do not agree with Mr. Edison’s ratio, I must agree that hard work and persistence play an almost equal role to success and accomplishments as does inspiration or any other factor.

The next advice that I would love to pass on to the Class of 2013 is the importance of the work ethic and hard work.  When I was growing up in New Town, my parents firmly instilled the work ethic within me and my siblings.  We were taught by their example that if you are going to achieved anything in this life, you have to work hard at it because nobody is going to give you anything.  As African Americans back then living in a segregated and racist society, we endeavored to meet the challenge of competing for jobs, education and a higher standard of living on an uneven playing field where the odds were against us.  We knew that we had to work and strive much harder than our white counterparts if we were to excel.  Class of 2013, the work ethic and hard work is still the greatest formula for success in life.  In the words of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “you must work hard and do your job so well that the living, the dead or the unborn
wouldn’t do it any better.”

The final words of advice that I would like to pass on to the Class of 2013 is the importance of having a good attitude.  Equally important to planning and not being a quitter is maintaining a good attitude.  The Reverend Jessie Jackson was the first one that I heard who used the following saying that is very applicable to what I am expressing here.  “It is not your aptitude that determines your altitude but your attitude.”  I have watched many gifted and academically smart people over the years whose star was rising due to their intellectual brilliance suddenly plummet to the ground due to their bad attitudes.  One in particular was a fellow with whom I graduated high school back in 1970.  He was the top student in our class so far as his G.P.A. standing was concerned.  He was slated to be the valedictorian and was assured of a scholarship from many of the best colleges and universities in the region.  Nevertheless, this academically smart guy had a
serious flaw that would prove to be his downfall.  He had a bad and defiant attitude.  This attitudinal problem grew worse and worse as the school years progressed.  His attitude became so bad and rebellious that he began to defy and resent his parents for the way they had endeavored to bring him up.  Being Christians, they had labored sacrificially to prepare their children to succeed in life both from a spiritual and academic perspective.  However, as stated my classmate due to the negative influence in his life rejected and resented their effort and concern for his future.  
This fellow was ultimately expelled from school and disqualified from being the valedictorian of our class.  He sunk deeper and deeper into rebellion and picked up many bad habits that robbed him of a golden opportunity to excel in life because of a bad attitude.  He never attended college and has lived a deficient and deprived life that was self imposed by his bad attitude.  When last I heard from him, he was still in a wretched way, oscillating in and out of trouble and perhaps tormented by the thought of what he could have achieved if it wasn’t for his bad attitude.