Thursday, June 13, 2019

To the Graduating Class of 2019

The Class of 2019 is onto the big stage and eagerly anticipates its next step in life. After many years of investing energy and effort into their studies, they have earned their right to don the cap and gown and walk across the stage to receive their Diploma. One of the hallmark staples of the graduation ceremony has been the commencement address delivered to the students by some celebrity, scholar, or philanthropist. Some of these remarks have been uplifting and meaningful, and some have been cringe-worthy. Some have been magnanimous and yet some missing the mark. I have never been asked to deliver a commencement address, but if I had to offer some thoughts to the grads, I would probably share these ideas with the Class of 2019.

Responsibilities vs. Rights: In our society, we tend to focus on what our rights are. The notion of every human being having equal rights is a lofty ideal and something that this nation is built on as articulated in the Declaration of Independence. From the noble vision of Equal Rights for all people, the proliferation of rights to many different sub-categories in society has been incredible. From the bill of rights for airplane passengers to consumers purchasing auto insurance and everything in between including the animal bill of rights, we are on our way to becoming a rights-obsessed society. An alternative approach would be to focus on one's responsibility to others. If an individual focused on his responsibility to treat every human being with the dignity and respect they deserve as created in the image of G-d, our society would be far better off.  The advantage of a responsibility centered society vs. a rights-centered society is the difference between the former focused on being a contributor and giver, whereas the latter one is focused on being a recipient.

Live with Gratitude: Never take anything for granted. Every day is a gift that we have to appreciate G-d and all the wonderful people in our lives. It's imperative that we open our eyes to acknowledge and enjoy all the goodness that we are fortunate to have. Internalizing this vital character trait will not only make you a better person but a much happier one as you will be focused on the many blessings you have as opposed to the unfortunate circumstances that may come your way.

So, my dear graduates, this is your time and to paraphrase the words that G-d communicated to Adam, "Go forth and conquer the world"!

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