For the Graduates

Author’s note: The following is an excerpt from an address that was given at the 2012 Spring Commencement for Graduate and Master’s students at Wayne State College.  It was written the day my grandpa passed away in March 2012.  I felt it fitting for the high school and college classes of 2020 and 2021 as they prepare to graduate this weekend, especially considering the hardships they have faced throughout the pandemic:

“My Grandpa Hansen, a very wise man, often told me, “Slow down! You’re going too fast!” (Usually in regard to my driving, my pace of mowing lawn, or the time I spent with him and Grandma).  He was not a renowned educator or philosopher by trade.  He was a farmer. He earned a Purple Heart serving his country during World War II and raised a family upon his return home.  This man was dignified in his own right having graduated from high school, a feat that many did not achieve in those days.  His wife made it through the eighth grade before taking on a job as a hired girl to help support her family during the Depression.  Despite their limited educational opportunities, both my grandpa and grandma believed in the value of an education and they never discouraged their children or grandchildren from learning or receiving a higher education.  After all, they felt that education was the only way a person could ensure being able to seize the opportunities that life has to offer.  That being said, this wise man was always quick to say that the seemingly outrageous ideas of his children and grandchildren were the result of a college education.  Nonetheless, he was always proud to hear that they were doing well in school and were finding success in life despite the fact that they needed to “Slow down!” Because, they were going too fast.

Surprisingly, it has taken 30 years for those words to finally sink in.  I took these words for granted all through my undergraduate years at Wayne State.  I worked hard, hoping for the day when graduation would come and I could get out into the “real world.” Graduation day came and was soon followed by a full-time job.  And, still, those words kept being said, “Slow down! You’re going too fast.”

Two and a half years ago, I had the opportunity to enter into the Masters of Business Administration program at Wayne State.  Life took on a whole new pace as I continued to work full-time while taking one or two classes each semester and teaching undergraduate courses as a graduate assistant.  Things became very hectic as I tried to balance family, work, and school.  Many of us are in the same boat.  Think about it.  We are taught from a young age that we shouldn’t let life pass us by.  We are supposed to be better, faster, and harder working that the person sitting next to us.  However, in many respects, we are “going too fast.”

Think back to those late nights and early mornings when you rushed through assignments to beat a deadline.  If you are like me, many of your coffee breaks at work and noontime lunch hours were filled with homework, forum discussions, or research for an upcoming file paper.

Some days, we tried to squeeze four hours worth of work into fifteen minutes.

Some days, we neglected our family or our home to get our work done.

Some days, we got upset with those who care about us the most because we just did not have time to deal with their problems and ours too.

Some days, we ignored our jobs and coworkers because we were trying to finish up a big project.

And some days, we were ready to give it up altogether because we were just tired of “going too fast.”

Those are the days when the realization came that it is time to “slow down.”

Throughout our college experience at Wayne State, we have been taught how to be the best at what we set out to do.  This means that we have to go the extra mile to obtain a degree and increase our opportunities in life.  It also means that we have been going fast.  We have worked hard!  The wonderful thing is that we did not give up.  We persevered in much the same way that my grandpa worked all those years to teach his children and grandchildren the value of a quality education and the value of slowing down long enough to enjoy the people and things that surround us.  When it comes right down to it, he was the one who was going the fastest of us all.

As we gather today among our family, friends, and peers who have triumphed and struggled with us to get to this point, I encourage each and every one of us to “Slow down, because we have been going too fast.”  Take the time to enjoy this momentous occasion in our lives and revel in our accomplishment with those who care about our success the most.  We have worked hard, but our families and friends have worked even harder to support us and make our dreams come true.  Congratulations and best of luck to all as we celebrate this exciting day.  Today is the day to slow down, have a chat with your grandpa, and enjoy it for all that it is worth.”

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