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Tim Durnin: Speaking from Experience to the Graduating Class of 2011

Good things will come from being bold, having character and living in the now

During the past several weeks, we have sent thousands of students into the world with annual commencement rituals. Now that the music has faded and celebrations ebb, I offer some words I thought worth sharing with the graduating class of 2011.

You are entering a world not of your own making. The generations preceding yours, including my own, have created a less than enviable legacy. Your inheritance is diminished. In spite of this, and because of it, there are myriad opportunities with which to forge a new destiny for yourselves and others.

This will not be accomplished by following the same trodden paths leading back from whence we came. This is a moment for new paths and as yet undiscovered horizons. Have hope.

In writing this, it was difficult not to lean on clichés. The same is true of life. We are drawn to the familiar, to the comfortable. As the author of your own life, be bold. Inspire your own metaphors.

You are entering a world often navigated based on irrational fear. While evils do exist, the world is basically good — so, too, are people. I think you will find that many of the demons that have been created dissolve quickly when confronted. Have courage.

You already face many formidable obstacles. The challenges ahead will require new paradigms and an as yet unknown creativity. Remember, the greatest advancements are born from the greatest challenges. Think beyond the stars.

Do not believe those people who tell you that there is a specific rubric for success, and beware the sage who offers a formula for certain happiness and wealth. These things do not exist. Follow your heart, your passion, your peace, and happiness will find you. Do what you love.

The most significant possession you have is now. The past and the future will beg for your attention. Be wary of looking back to where you wish to return or at people and places you wish to avoid. Likewise, looking too far beyond the horizon, one can miss the more immediate opportunities and necessary steps to move forward. Live and be in the present.

I believe many of our world’s problems result from a narrow and shallow definition of success. It is easy to be taken with and driven by the things of this world. That is precisely what the material world wishes of you. I think you will find that the size of your house, the make of your car and the brand of your clothing are of little consequence. Define your own success.

Have character. Character is not something solely for public display. The most important expressions of character occur in isolation, when alone or in the private conversations of the mind. I yield to legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Live a worthy private and internal life.

Control is an illusion. The currents of life run swift and uncertain. I have spent far too much time fighting the inevitable and precious little time enjoying the flow. Know when to let go.

Seek abiding truths. Petty, righteous truths come easily, without effort and offer commensurate returns. Deep, enduring and eternal truths take much time and great effort to reveal but, I believe, are the ultimate ends to which we are drawn. Their discovery offer a particular and sacred joy. Relish intellectual inquiry.

Let me close with a quote from theologian Karl Rahner. It has served me well. “Take care not to let the great moments of life go by, the moments in which truth is acknowledged to one’s own disadvantage and love is done at the expense of one’s own egotism.” Be willing to forgive and seek forgiveness.

I wish you well. Vaya con Dios.

— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and serves as chief operating officer for Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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