Michelle Mann's Keynote Address, NGU Graduation 2021

Michelle Mann's Keynote Address, NGU Graduation 2021

Sep 23, 2021

Anitha, Evi, Harriet, Naphtali, Riksena, and Sindi. Thank you for giving me the honor of addressing you one final time as the undergraduate class of 2021. It truly is a joyful experience and privilege for me to be able to be here and say a few final things to you in this capacity. I hope for you it is the same, and you are not having a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) moment as you see me once again standing before you and are reliving the long hours of listening to me and studying for financial accounting exams. But you persevered through that, through other courses, internships and writing your thesis, to name a few of your many accomplishments during these past few years. We are all here this evening to celebrate your success and hard work, made especially challenging during the added stress of the coronavirus changes and uncertainties. Well done!

I’m told there is an African proverb: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

The theme for this evening is “Run a Good Race”, and you have done that. You have run and completed the undergraduate race. Individually and as a team. One result of that race is that you have gained much knowledge. But…the race continues, just differently. And, as you continue on, you will gain more knowledge. But my desire for you is that you also gain wisdom. This comes through experience, an understanding of yourself, others, and the world around you.Wisdom and knowledge have much in common. They both involve learning. One must start with knowledge, but wisdom takes it deeper. When wisdom is acquired, one has a clearer understanding of what action to take. One will have the ability do the right thing. There are many who possess much knowledge but little wisdom. Wisdom brings insight, discernment and, again, often comes through experience.

The late Fr. Thomas Hopko wrote 55 maxims, or short truths, that can help us all live a deeper, wiser, and more meaningful life. His list inspires me. I have taken some of his maxims here and added a number of my own. They are little bites of wisdom that, when practiced and applied, increase one’s ability to live life well, with deep meaning and fullness. I most certainly don’t have these mastered, but I am increasingly aware of them and working to cultivate them in my own life, recognizing their critical importance.

I’ve grouped these maxims into four separate categories of wisdom. Courage, compassion, teachability and integrity.

So here we go (as an accountant, of course I have a list for you…but no, they are not on a spreadsheet):

1. Courage. How can one grow in strength and daring? What are some seeds?

When you fall get up immediately and start over

Face reality, don’t hide from it

Do the most difficult and painful things first

Exercise regularly

Train your mind and your thoughts as you would your physical body

Live fully in the present moment

Have a daily schedule of activities

Open your eyes and turn your face to the suffering of your neighbor

2. Compassion. How can one grow in compassion, expanding one’s heart and keeping it from becoming hard?

Forgive easily.

Ask for forgiveness quickly.

Don’t burn bridges

Be merciful with yourself and others

Be grateful

Be cheerful

Value others, out loud, in front of them and publicly

Recognize your own value and uniqueness

Do acts of mercy and compassion often and in secret

Practice charity at all stages of life (when you are young the acts of giving might seem small and insignificant, but they are just as important as larger acts, making you a charitable person)

Be kind to others and to nature. It is a small step to move from abusing nature to abusing others, especially the vulnerable, weak, and defenseless.

3. Teachability. How can one remain teachable throughout life, open to growth and change?

Get help when you need it without fear or shame

Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are, not futilely wishing for the past or the future

Have a healthy, wholesome hobby

Learn to practice silence, both inner and outer

Read literature and good books, a little at a time

Maintain cleanliness and order in your personal life

Ask questions

Listen more, talk less

Recognize and stop destructive thoughts

When you talk to yourself, do so like you would to a friend – encouraging and kind, not harsh and negative

Speak simply and clearly

4. Integrity. Value and protect integrity with diligence. (You might remember, we also talked about this in the first lessons of class.) How?

Be totally honest, first of all with yourself

Be polite with everyone, first of all with family members

Be an ordinary person, this is easily done by recognizing others’ achievements with satisfaction

Don’t compare yourself with anyone

Be faithful and excellent in the small, hidden things

Keep confidences

Do the right thing. Always.

Repair broken relationships as far as it depends on you. As soon as possible.

Judge yourself, not others

Be merciful with others, and yourself

Give advice only when asked, or when it is your duty.

I say this as I am giving you a long list of advice BUT… I have been asked and so it’s also my duty…and as grandmother, yiayia, nëna that duty always is present I think?? Which gives me the chance to say one last thing…call your momma regularly!

Individually these are small, yet, deep things. Some take years to develop while others can be practiced immediately. If you are able to think of someone who practices and lives by many or most of these truths, you will probably recognize that he or she is a wise person. They are probably someone that you would go to when you need help, they are someone to talk to, someone to trust. I challenge each of you to grow and become, uniquely, that person.

Finally, as you continue to run your unique race, be confident that you know more than you think you know. You bring more to the table than you think you bring. You are smart, you are brave, you are prepared. You have been well trained for the race ahead. I am most confident that all of you will be a credit to the name of Nehemiah Gateway University. (Of course, just for old time’s sake,

I am closing with an accounting term!)

May all that awaits each of you be made better by your presence and participation. We will miss you and will follow your endeavors with great interest and pride. May God bless you and congratulations Class of 2021!