Saturday December 16, 2017

Work For The Common Good

By Eric F Spina

"Believe in yourself. This is your story, so don't be afraid to change the storyline. Follow your passion, always." Today, I offered a few words of advice to 570 newly minted University of Dayton graduates at winter commencement exercises.

Good morning!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! You! Did! It!

Graduates, take a moment and savor this feeling, this place, this fact: you are a University of Dayton graduate! This is a day you’ll always remember and cherish. It’s the day you became a Flyer forever. Class of ’17.

I especially welcome all of our families on this joyous day. I can see and feel your happiness, your pride, and yes, even a little bit of relief. Please, graduates, rise, face your family members and join me in giving them a rousing round of applause for their support and love that made this day possible!

Some of you are first-generation college graduates — the first in the history of your extended families to attend and graduate from college. You represent the American dream, and you will continue to open doors of opportunity — not just for yourselves, but for future generations of your family. We’re so proud of you AND so proud of the family members who made your dream — and theirs — come true. Let’s have a special round of applause for these first-generation college graduates and their families!

Members of the faculty and staff: Thank *you* for creating an environment that has allowed these students to stretch themselves academically, to see the world as their classroom, to learn what it means to be a servant-leader in the Marianist tradition. You have prepared them — and encouraged them — to use their education and faith to serve others, to work for the greater good. Graduates, please rise and express your gratitude to your faculty and staff with a hearty round of applause!

Graduates, today marks the end of one grand journey and the beginning of a new one — one that’s filled with endless possibilities if you continue to face each day with faith and courage, an open mind and an open heart.

As students and now as young alumni, you are the personification of our vision to be The University for the Common Good. When I look out over this sea of new University of Dayton graduates, I am filled with hope for humanity’s common future. I am inspired by your relentless pursuit to not just do well, but also to do good. You will change the world in ways we cannot even imagine today.

I’m confident of that prediction because I have witnessed you use your talents and gifts in a very visible way to serve others — whether it’s launching a fair trade campaign on campus, transforming a former Dayton Public School site into an urban farm, or traveling to India to work on a solar refrigeration project to keep vaccines cool during electricity blackouts. And those are just a few examples.

As I’ve pointed out frequently, University of Dayton students really are different. You are not here solely to get a degree so that you can become rich or achieve personal fame or glory. You are here to become educated so that you can make a difference. You want to be a catalyst for positive change, and we expect nothing less from you.

As you step into careers, graduate schools, and military or other service, I urge you to take this next step with confidence, courage, steadfastness, and faith.

I would like to offer the following few words of advice on this, your special day:

First of all, appreciate difference and work for justice for all. We share a common humanity that transcends race, religion, gender, country of origin, sexual orientation, socio-economic status — and any other label we attach to people who are different than ourselves. With humility, empathy, and openness, respect the dignity of each person because we are all made in God’s likeness. This is perhaps the greatest lesson you can take away from the University of Dayton and into the world.

Secondly, cultivate deep connections with others. Relationships of trust and love and integrity matter deeply — in our homes, workplaces, and communities. In the Marianist spirit, we can accomplish far more together than we ever could alone, no matter how talented we are as individuals.

Thirdly, dedicate yourself to building community. Indeed, be champions of community. I’m confident the skills you’ve learned at this Catholic, Marianist university — collaboration, respect for others, and the ability to work across disciplines and in diverse settings — will serve you well as you forge a path. Our world needs individuals who can unite diverse people  around a common mission. You are called to be a community builder.

Fourth, believe in yourself. This is your story, so don’t be afraid to change the storyline. Follow your passion, always. Accept failure, which is an inevitable part of life, and learn the transformative power of resiliency. How you respond to adversity ultimately will define your character.

I’m reminded of the words of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianists. He said, quote, “I am like a brook that makes no effort to overcome obstacles in its way. All the obstacles can do is hold me up for a while, as a brook is held up; but during that time it grows broader and deeper and after a while it overflows the obstruction and flows along again. This is how I am going to work.” Unquote. Take those words to heart — be persistent.

And finally, be a partner for the common good. With so many seemingly intractable problems facing society — from racism and religious intolerance to poverty and violence — it would be easy to turn away from the challenges of our times. But we are all in this world together and are part of a community larger than ourselves. Use your education and faith to make the world a more just place for all. Not some. Not just those like you in some way. But all. Please, our future as humankind depends upon it.

The University of Dayton will always be an important part of you, and you will always be part of this special campus community. This is your home, always. We are so proud of all your achievements and are confident that you will march out of this arena and make a positive difference. You reflect the aspirations, hopes and dreams of our university community. You are our hope for the future.

Thank you, and CONGRATULATIONS, CLASS OF 2017!

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