Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What I've Willed, I'll Do by Miss Virginia Paulk

Graduation Season is upon us. I know, you thought it was Spring. It is, but it's also Graduation Season a season when every celebrity, politician, and Great Thinker don a cap and gown and try to impart Life Wisdom into junior high, high school, and college graduates across the country. Sometimes the speeches are good (e.g., My Uncle Terwilliger on the art of eating popovers by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)).

The other day, a friend of mine posted a link to 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. As I read the article, I just kept shaking my head and thinking "yep! yep! yep!" My favorite piece of advice is the first item and this sentence, in particular: "Certainly one benchmark of your post graduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years." As I look back on my 19 years since my graduation from Lake Forest College, I'm proud to say that my closest friends are all people I met during those four years.

My mom was one of three valedictorians at her 1966 graduation from Tarpon Springs High School. I'd always known about this, but today, I found my mom's speech, "What I've Willed, I'll Do." How do I know this is the speech she gave? Because I also found the graduation program.  In honor of Graduation Season, I thought you'd enjoy reading the Life Wisdom from a 1966 18 year old.
What I've Willed I'll Do
by Virginia Paulk
delivered at the June 10, 1966 Tarpon Springs High School Graduation Ceremony
All of us have dreamed of what we would like to do, what we would like to become, but how many of us have done anything about these dreams? Tonight 155 of us have fulfilled one of our many dreams -- to graduate from high school. In order that we were able to accomplish this feat, we had to acquire three abilities -- courage to do, conviction that what we do is right and worthwhile, and desire to surpass our past accomplishments. Else we, you and I, would not be here tonight on the brink of a great tomorrow. Now we are ready to launch out, "to get someplace in the world;" but where is it we are headed? As we wait for the time to come for us to receive our diplomas, many of us are probably thinking of the future and wondering what's ahead. I cannot prophesy what lies before us -- no one can do that -- but I do know one thing: the future will be only what we will it to be, only what we make it. 
Will our dreams remain dreams, or will they become realities? Dreams without action are but dreams. All things we are, can do, and be, but first we must begin. When we decide we are going to do something, let's go ahead, let's take that first step and the second and the one after that. Once we have set our sights, we must never stop until we reach that pot of gold.
When we dream, we dream of success not failure. We are usually eager to try a quick success formula, "Popularity in Six Easy Steps," "Success in Two Short Weeks" -- but there is no "quick" success formula. Success is not skimming on the smooth water beneath the beach; it is surfing on the big breakers -- not easy at all, dared by only a few and accomplished by even fewer.  Yet the channel to success will be smoother though if we first learn a few rules. We must command our souls to
  1. Develop inner props of resolute character
  2. Fearlessly take the measure of the forces that pull life down
  3. Regard success with modesty
  4. Appraise defeat objectively
  5. Cultivate a high standard of enjoyment
  6. Use grief as a thoroughfare to soul maturity, rather than as a dead-end street of misery and self-pity
  7. Love
  8. Share with others the fruits of our daring
We must learn to live with others and to love. Share with others what we have; share the fruits of our daring. The world needs kind, tender-hearted people; we must be kind and tender-hearted. We must learn the art of forgiving: to forgive and then forget. We need a sense of humor and the ability to see a joke if we are to get some pleasure out of life and pass it on to others. Laughter is a power that will save us not only from disaster but from ourselves. Let's laugh. Let's not be afraid to help someone else. Shoulder the burden of the weak. We, the graduates, are strong to a degree and can help shoulder others' burdens. It is our responsibility to help the weak. If we can catch a passion for helping others, a richer life will come back to us. 
Remember who we are and what we have willed. "You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world." When we receive our diplomas, we will hold opportunity in our hands. It is not opportunity for ourselves alone, but opportunity for others, also. We we accept our diplomas, we will be saying to the world, "I accept what I have been willing on myself for these past twelve years; I am ready to do what must be done; I am ready to be my brother's keeper." 
It is our choice; we have willed it thus; and what we will, we must do.

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