Commencement: Photographs in a Ziplock Bag

May 21, 2016

First, Happy Anniversary to my wife of 33 years! I love you, Carol!

Second, the following are my remarks at last night’s Commencement at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis:

When speaking with the class of 2016 at practice yesterday, I told them we are very proud of them and acknowledged that this is a very big day for them. However, I also asked them to remember that it is not all about them. I reminded them that today is a big day for their parents as well.

With that in mind, I am going to direct the majority of my comments to the parents of the Class of 2016.

Parents – sitting here before you are the products of years of hard work, love, and sacrifice. Congratulations to you.

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As you have been preparing for graduation open houses, or just reminiscing about your child growing up so fast, I’m sure boxes of photographs have been dusted off and opened up for all to enjoy.

Perhaps you can relate to this. In our basement are boxes of photos. For Mary, our oldest, there are 10-12 shoeboxes full of pictures. For Rick, maybe 4 or 5 boxes. There are two boxes of pictures of Laura. And for Robby, our youngest, there is a Ziplock bag with a dozen pictures in it.

I remember Robby commenting on how unfair it was that there were so many pictures of the older kids, and so few of him. He said, “I don’t even know what I looked like when I was in kindergarten.”

Carol and I felt badly that he had been under-photographed as a child. So I dug through some old pictures and found one to show him. A bright-eyed six-year-old boy smiled in the picture. I went to Robby and put my arm around him and apologized.

“Here, Robby, take this. I’m sorry there aren’t more pictures of you growing up.”

“Is this me in kindergarten?” he asked with excitement.

I told him, “No, that’s Rick, but you looked about the same.”

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Some of you are sending your first child to college, nervous and anxious about what lies ahead for them. Others are sending your youngest off to college and are anticipating what life will be like for you with all your children gone.

I remember when we dropped Robby off at college. We love our kids to death and it was rough. There were some tears. There was sadness. There was some fear – even though he was our fourth child – we wondered if we had prepared him well enough.

When Robby left, Carol and I were alone for the first time in 27 years. We experienced the often-talked about “empty nest.” I spoke with some of you yesterday that were anxious about entering the empty nest stage of life.

Let me share a little bit about the empty nest — IT’S AWESOME!

Let me clarify that – it’s awesome while it lasts.

The summer after Robby’s first year of college, we had seven people and a dog living in our house. Robby came home for summer break. That same summer, Laura graduated from college and moved back home. She brought her fiancée with her because he needed a place to stay. We kept him locked in the basement until the wedding. My older son and his wife were between houses, so they moved in with us, too. And they brought their Chihuahua with them. So parents, as much as you will miss your children, don’t worry. They’re like boomerangs. They’ll be back.

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Regardless of how many kids you have, it is always special when one of them reaches this milestone. Be confident in the work you have done. You got them to where they are today, and they appreciate that – even if they don’t always tell you. Your lessons will stay with them for the rest of their lives. You have given them the opportunity to succeed and they are a witness to your love and sacrifice. You are their foundation and they will build on that foundation.

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To the Class of 2016: You got it. You were all in.

You have been an awesome class and have contributed so much to the life of the school. You have been respectful and have done what we’ve asked of you. You didn’t live the year looking ahead to the next thing, but were present in the here and now, and because of that you were able to enjoy your senior year.

By conducting yourselves in this manner, you have shown your gratitude. You understand that you did not get to this point on our own. Your faith and your family, and your school, have helped form you into the people you are today.

Continue to live a life of gratitude. Remember Bishop Chatard High School. Tell your parents how much you love them. And finally, when you are preparing to leave for college, don’t forget to pack your faith and take it with you.

Congratulations to the Class of 2016. Congratulations to the parents of the Class of 2016.

 

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