I think Graduation day is a bit like walking a gangplank. You are leaving behind the safety and security of college for the uncertainty and adventure of the rest of your life. Some of you will return to terra firma and resume your studies. The rest of you will pause on that gangplank. Poised over the water below you have no idea what the future will hold, what people you will meet and what will happen to your career.
That is not to say that you do not have your own ideas about that career. You have worked hard while at college and have graduated so you have more than a basic understanding of your subject. You may know exactly what you want to do and, of course, you may realize your dreams. On the other hand life could throw up some surprises and you could find yourself doing something diametrically opposed to what you had planned. So your degree is something like having the security of a lifebelt. It will keep you afloat until you find your own particular niche. In a rapidly changing world you will have to be able to adapt to changing times. You may have to add to your existing qualification or find a new career altogether.
The ship you board may be a luxurious liner or a working vessel. It may bring you around the coast or across the world. You may face fierce storms or have plain sailing and a following wind. You may choose your particular destination or you may just go where the tide brings you. On that ship called life you will find new friends. Some will share your hopes. Others may have their own agenda. Each one will influence you in a different way.
Today I say to you try to be choosy about those friends. It is tempting to befriend those who you feel will help you in your career and of course there is no harm in that. It is good to be willing to keep learning from those who have gone ahead of you. Don't, however, close your mind to what others may bring to your life to enrich it. That penniless loafer may seem like a good for nothing but be, in reality, a brilliant musician. The plodder may not seem to have much to offer but perhaps he or she will get to the shore before you do. So don't judge others harshly but do try to choose wisely people who will be good friends to you over the years. Life can be hard and we all need good friends.
Speaking of friends you are leaving some behind today. Over the past few years they have shared your workload, your ambitions and your coffee breaks not to mention your socialising. It is hard to part with them and whatever about the global village the world can be a big place and it's easy to lose touch. That is why I am suggesting to you that you make concrete arrangements to stay in touch by email or phone. Whatever about the new friends you make there is something special about those who shared your college life and those long talks deep into the night.
Some of you will rush aboard your ship. Others may be more hesitant. Some of you will have plenty of baggage to bring, others will travel lightly. One thing you will all bring is your memories of your growing years and of your families. Today, those who have encouraged you all those years are happy to see you graduate. I know you will agree with me that they are owed a huge dept of gratitude for their support and love. Obviously, judging by your results, you studied hard but you also had help from your tutors and professors. It's worth mentioning too that a college like this is made up of many different components and many different people. Think, for instance, of the library staff, the canteen staff and those who keep the grounds in such immaculate order. There were many people involved in your graduation and it will be a sign of your maturity that you thank them for their efforts on your behalf. Gratitude to and graciousness towards others will always stand to you in life. We always remember the person who speaks kindly of us so always remember to speak kindly of others too.
Tonight you will be celebrating and quite rightly so. You deserve to have a night on the town. Whether or not your tutors are also celebrating I leave open to you to guess. When tomorrow comes, but obviously not too early in the morning, you can pack for that all important journey. Bring with you the knowledge you have but bring also an open mind. It's great to have a route planned but be willing to travel the bye ways and to see what they have to offer too. Make a decision that you are going to make a difference in the world, even if it is in one small corner of it. Work hard but do get your priorities right. Always have time for your families and friends. Take time to enjoy the beauties of nature and to care for them because without water and air our planet, and you, cannot survive.
Finally, enjoy the trip. Go on your journey armed with enthusiasm and curiosity. Open your hearts to your fellow passengers and they will surely open theirs to you. I wish you well on your journey and as they say when they launch a ship, "May God bless all who sail in her.