Graduation Season Has Arrived!

I LOVE this time of year. 

Not only do graduations allow us the opportunity to celebrate years of hard work and tremendous accomplishment, but they also give us a chance to enjoy what are often some of the most influential, funny, and inspirational orations of our time: commencement speeches.  

I get so excited for these speeches every year that I often make an effort to listen to all of them via the National Public Radio Link. And the more commencement speeches I listen to, the more I discover a common thread; the lesson that it is never too late to stop and pause to think about your future.

I will always remember my high school baccalaureate speaker who used Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop" as a theme song. You know the one…

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,

It’ll be better than before,

Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.

Every time I hear that song, no matter where I am, I remember that speech, recalling those yesterdays and doing exactly what the song says; envisioning tomorrow. One of those “tomorrows” became another commencement speech I’ll never forget at my first college graduation at Ohio University. 

My commencement speaker was Matt Lauer, who was also graduating with our 1997 class. Lauer spoke on his journey from a rural area of Ohio to making it big as the morning host of the Today Show for NBC. He instilled the idea that, despite his successes, he never allowed himself to get too big for his own good. He displayed this commitment by returning and finishing his bachelor degree, even after making it big.

As I reflect back on graduation day at Ohio University, my memories drift to a very special moment for me: standing in the grass, donning my graduation cap and gown as I held my oldest nephew. We were both so young, with boundless dreams and no way of knowing what our futures held. Looking at where we both are now, I don't think either of us could have even dreamed of the challenges we'd face or the blessings we'd receive. 

In my next “tomorrow,” I’ll be participating in my first ever graduation for Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, where I’ll witness 133 new physicians cross the Capitol Theatre stage and into the world of medicine. I could not have imagined that I would be living in such a beautiful part of the country. I could not have dreamed that I would play a part in contributing to the important mission of supporting access to quality healthcare for our rural and underserved communities. 

My nephew — who was barely old enough to walk when I held him at my graduation — will himself be graduating from the Air Force in San Antonio later in June. I don't believe he could have imagined he’d be following in the footsteps of his great grandfather, grandfather, father, and uncle who served our country before him.

So, to all of the new graduates — especially to the PNWU graduates who I’ll watch walk across that stage on Saturday — and to all of the people supporting them, I offer this advice: think about tomorrow, but be present today! 

Celebrate each other! These commencement ceremonies are not just a celebration but a moment of appreciation for the journey and for the people we love that helped us along the way. It is these moments of being together and celebrating life that create the foundation to help us during the difficult times we often find tossed at us on our journey toward our ultimate destiny. 

We may have visions and goals for our future, but the future may hold destinations and accomplishments beyond our wildest imaginations. Your life is not on hold until you accomplish these goals - your life is now. Yesterday may be gone, but the memories of it will live on, tomorrow and forever. 

Congratulations to all!