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Have you ever thought
Why do we make such a big deal about graduation?
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One of the sure signs of spring is all of the graduation ceremonies and graduates celebrating the end of their high school careers. The sights of graduation are everywhere — there is a special graduation section in this edition of The Covington News; signs of congratulations appear in front of subdivisions and homes; there will be parties and gifts. All this is indication of a time of completion and restarting to a lot of young lives.

Commencement ceremonies for all three high schools in the Newton County School system will be next weekend. This year’s schedule is for Newton High’s 540 graduates to receive their diplomas at 8 p.m. on Thursday; Eastside’s 300 graduates to have their ceremony the next evening at 8 pm. and Alcovy and its 380 graduates to have their ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday. All three ceremonies will be at the Springfield Baptist Church.

I warn those who graduate to prepare themselves for some surprises. At each level of their journey it becomes a little more challenging. The doors of new opportunities will be there but each graduate must go through the ones for them and face the new challenges. When I received my last degree, someone gave me a plaque with the saying, “Just as I learned all the answers, someone went and changed all the questions.” Commencement is not a time to stop but to go and grow. We live in an ever changing world.

Graduations or Commencements are a time to celebrate the completion of one phase of one’s life and the entry into another. As young people move from one level of education to another or enter the working world, we pause for few moments to look back and to look forward. All the way from preschool programs to graduate school, we are busy in the spring with these rituals.

A lot of the happiness is not just in the hearts of the graduates but for those who have shared the journey with them — those who helped with late night projects and reports; those who provided transportation as needed and those who share many times of joy and tears. Graduation takes a family effort. I congratulate the families of all the new graduates.

If you would forgive a proud grandfather for taking a moment to note the two graduates this year in our family, two of our granddaughters are finishing a part of their educational journey this year. Brittany, our oldest, received two master degrees this year from Wake Forrest. One is in Divinity, which is the same as my Master’s Degree, and another is in Counseling. She now begins a career in counseling in the Atlanta area.

Another granddaughter, Katie, received her Bachelor Degree in Religion from Birmingham Southern College yesterday. She is going to do a year of missions in what is known as the World Race. She will be a part of a six person team in 11 different nations for a month each. She will be living in a tent most of that time in nations in West Africa, Asia, and Central America. I thought it was tough as a Methodist preacher to move every four years or so!

I am so proud of both of them and the wonderful job their parents did in nurturing them though their formative years. For you see, in celebrating graduations we are recognizing all the loving effort of family that made it possible for the graduates to get to this point.

There are a few fairly standard themes that run through most commencement speeches. One is each new class of graduates is challenged to be world changers. And the truth is each new class will make some difference. But the truth is that there will still be need for change next year and the years to follow.

Another common theme is that it is not easy in the “new” world you about to venture into. Don’t think for a moment, I would say to the graduates, that you are entitled. You have got to take what you have learned and build on it. You have to make your way.

If you are entering the job market or a profession, I would caution you not to find your total identity is what you are “doing” to make a living. Don’t get so busy that you lose your true self in the process. Some will be leaving home for the first time. As you do, remember the importance of family and strengthen the ties that bind you to your family.

Keep on learning, not only in the field that you work in, but in all phases of living. What you have obtained in the years of “formal” education is only a foundation to learn in all of life. Grow in your involvement in your community and your faith. Seek to be an informed and involved citizen. Make your goal each day to make the world a little better for those that follow you in the years to come. Your family and neighbors did that for you and not is it your turn. Congratulation graduates.