2012 Graduation Speech
There was, not long ago, a Jesuit, born in India, named Anthony de Mello. He became world famous for his spiritual workshops and writings. I will let you know that there was some controversy around his teachings because he was a Catholic priest but he used a lot of different faiths when he taught about spirituality. But, what I like about Anthony de Mello is that he is very quotable. He has a lot of short little sayings that stick in your head and can really make you think. I like sayings like that. For example, I like it when LeCrae says, “God is enough.” I like it when Matisyahu says, “Sometimes in my tears I drown, but I never let it get me down.” I like that. I like the short sayings that you can remember and that are full of meaning. Anthony de Mello has a lot of those, and as I was trying to think of what I was going to say to you tonight, I stumbled across many of them. So I just want to share a few of them with you tonight and why they remind me of this 8th grade class.
Anthony de Mello said, “Behold God, beholding you, and smiling.” That’s just a fancy way of saying “Look at God, looking at you, and smiling.” 8th Grade, look at us. Look at US. I’m serious. Turn around, you can stand up if you want to , and look at us. Looking at you. And smiling. These people are here for you. You have a whole gym of people here for you. Nobody is coming to the Nativity School graduation at 7:00 on a Thursday for themselves. We are here for you. And not just tonight. We are here for you. Period. This school will be here for you. You know your family will be here for you. And look down the row. I know you will be there for each other. So here we are. Look at us, looking at you, and smiling. As I thought more about this saying, I realized that it was a little creepy that you would look up and there we would be, just sitting there smiling at you. But what you need to know is that you are not alone. We are here. “Behold God, beholding you, and smiling.”
Anthony de Mello also said, “You sanctify whatever you are grateful for.” Basically, what this means is that everything you are grateful for becomes holy because you are grateful for it. There are two thoughts I want to share around this quote. The first is that this group has made so many things holy because of your unrelenting gratitude. I’ve been here for nine years. I’ve seen all our classes graduate. And every class has something that stands out. There are many things that stand out about this class—this is probably the nicest group of boys we have ever had. But one of the most important, to me, is your gratitude as a group. So, Anthony de Mello is saying that everything you are grateful for becomes holy. There are many things that I have heard you express gratitude for. These are the things you have made holy: your families, your churches, your homes, your lives, this school, your teachers. You have made each other holy. Thank you for making so many things holy. But you should also know, that you have been made holy. I know that your teachers and the staff at this school are grateful for you. I can only really speak for myself, but I can tell you how I am grateful for you.
This was my first year as a middle school principal. There are some days that just don’t go very well. For example, one time this year I went into the boys bathroom and there was toilet paper all over the place and someone had kicked the door in. This made me mad, and I stormed out of the bathroom determined to find the culprits and make them pay. And here comes Giovanni, smiling. Always smiling. And Gio says, “Good morning, Mr. Chambers.” And reaches out for a handshake. “Good morning, Giovanni.”
“How is your day?”
“It is fine, Gio. Thank you.” And I, too, have to smile. I am grateful for Giovanni.
Again, there are days when half the school has lunch JUG and I come growling over to the Community Center with my list and point to the many, many students who have JUG. “You have JUG! You have JUG! You have JUG! Do your homework! Don’t walk on desks! Why would that be a good idea? Grrr.”
I’ll look up amid my ranting and notice the 8th grade girls off in their corner looking at me and laughing. So, I go over there and I’ll ask them, “What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing, Mr. Chambers.”
“No, come on, what are you laughing at?”
“Well, when you get really mad like that your face turns all red and this vein pops out of your forehead. The 6th graders don’t know about the grizzly bear, do they?”
I am grateful for that. I am grateful for your honesty and for reminding me why I love this job.
I am grateful for all of you. We all are. And, so, you are holy.
I’ve only got one more quote from Anthony de Mello that I want to talk about. It is, “You do not have to change for God to love you.” You do not have to change for God to love you. Like I said, it is one of those short quotes that is easy to remember but packed with meaning. You do not have to change for God to love you. God loves you. God can’t help it. God just loves you. And, while I don’t want to compare your teachers to God, even though they are very, very good, it is the same for us. We love you. There is nothing we can do about it. We can’t help it. We love you and there is nothing that you can do to make us stop loving you. We are going to love you no matter what. You are all familiar with the success stories of our graduates. Students at Seattle U and a girl studying nursing at UCLA and freshmen with 4.0s at Jesuit and students excelling at St. Michael’s University School and students with full-ride academic and athletic scholarships to college. They are doing great. And we love them, we do. But there are plenty of other kids who had too many bad breaks or too many obstacles in their lives and they don’t have that perfectly straight road to academic excellence. We love them, too. As your principal, I have to tell you that we want you to do well in your classes and graduate from high school in four years. And we want you to pursue further education after high school, whether it’s trade school or college. But if that’s not how it goes for you, if life happens and things get in your way, we are still here for you. We will still love you. There is nothing you can do to make us stop loving you. You don’t have to change for us to love you.
There is one last Anthony de Mello quote that I will leave you with. I’m not going to explain it because I think it speaks for itself. It is this: “Extend your arms in welcome to the future. The best is yet to come.” Thank you for these last three years it has been my blessing to be with you.
Mike Chambers, Principal