I have attended numerous ceremonies in my life. Some of the most inspiring are home school graduations, two of which were my own daughters. My husband and I were able to hand our daughters their high school diplomas after years of learning and growing together. I would do it all over again and would not trade those years for anything. That has been a few years ago now but I recently had the privilege of attending and honoring graduating seniors of the Homewood Christian Association, held at Wildwood Baptist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, Sunday, May 19th. Many of the grads I have had the privilege of watching grow up into wonderful godly adults. Watching the families and listening to the shared memories they have experienced and shared over the years as well as the accomplishments of these young graduates filled my heart with joy. It also inspires others to continue to stay on task of homeschooing knowing it can’t be a rewarding and successful experience for all involved.
One of the most touching moments was the Senior Speech given by Catherine Parks, who I have watched grow up. Catherine left the day after graduation for a mission trip to share Christ with others. Catherine’s speech is below.
Never, Never, Never Give In
In 1941, a man stepped up to the podium at his former school to give a speech. In one of his shortest speeches ever recorded, he addressed the students with this challenge. “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” These words, spoken by Winston Churchill, still resonate with us today, and awaken our inner desire to honor and to persevere.
This class of 2013 stands before you today as a testimony to what dedication and hard work can accomplish. It takes dedication from both the student and the parent to complete high school as a homeschooler. There are many trials that homeschool family members face throughout the years of learning. Through it all, our parents never gave up on our education. A parent’s job through this process is taxing, and although when we were younger many of us didn’t realize it, we now look back and recognize the beautiful gift our parents gave us. The gift of education, taught in a loving, interactive and individualized way. Some of us have participated in co-ops, various types of homeschool classes, and even college courses as dual credit students. Through our homeschool education the class of 2013 has been given the tools to make a positive impact on our world. We couldn’t have made it to this point without the support of our parents and families. So to you we say, “Thank you.”
Some of us look forward to the future with hopes of becoming engineers, culinary artists, professional ballet dancers, architects, scientists, nurses, and hairstylists. No matter what path we choose to take, or even if we’re uncertain of where our path will lead at this moment, we possess a hope for the future that no one can take away from us. A hope that comes from our belief in God, that whenever we follow and commit our ways to Him, He will guide us, wherever that path might lead. When we seek to follow the Lord with all that we are, He will use our efforts to accomplish His will. For this reason, we chose as our class verse Colossians 1:10 “…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”
I would like to close with the story of a person who devoted her life to honor God. Her name was Gladys Aylward, and she possessed a deep conviction and longing to travel to China and serve as a missionary during the early 1900’s. She persevered despite being dismissed from the missionary training school for failing her Bible class. She miraculously survived a thirty mile trudge through the Siberian forest during a snow storm when her train had been halted near the Chinese border because of an ongoing war. She escaped Soviet officers that were escorting her to forced labor as a machinist in a war factory. After over six weeks of hard travel and complications, she finally reached China. She faithfully served the Chinese people and helped reform some of their harmful traditions of the time, such as infant foot binding. She was even bestowed the official title of “Foot Inspector”. She operated an inn for mule train drivers with whom she shared Christianity and took in over 100 orphans. Through all of this she never lost her hope in God. Because of Gladys Aylward’s perseverance, hundreds of people were saved and thousands were impacted by her ministry. In the words of Winston Churchill, she never, never, never gave in.
May we be found faithful to stand strong for Christ, persevere and impact our world, and never, never, never give in.
The following commencement speech was given Kent Major a homeschool father of seven .
Today we are assembled to recognize the years of hard work put forth by these exceptional young adults. Yet, I believe it important for you students to recognize that you were never alone in this process… God was with you, and so were your parents. I trust that you’ve come to understand that your parents homeschooled you out of love, not out of expediency. The diploma you are receiving also represents their hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice. I suggest we take a moment to recognize them. Students, please stand and face your parents. Parents, please stand and face your students. Students, in recognition of your parents’ devotion and guidance, please lead us in a round of applause for them.
Students, in a few minutes, we will bestow upon you the title of graduates. Along with the diploma comes a new phase of life where you will have ever-increasing responsibility for the decisions you make. You have received a good education and upbringing. Now, each of you must decide what you will do with it. How will you use it? If you were to think of your life as a movie, what would the movie look like? What is the plot line? For what will you be known?
The cover article for this week’s Time Magazine has a view about your generation, and it offers a perspective of what the movie of your life might look like. The title of the article is “The Me Me Me Generation” and the opening paragraph begins with the following… “I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof.”
I can’t vouch for Time Magazine’s perspective on your generation as a whole, but I do know this: the article does not accurately describe what I know about you. In a few minutes, I will share a few highlights of from your past few years, which will provide strong evidence that you are oriented more towards service than selfishness. And I daresay that a key reason your families have made the educational decisions that have brought you here today is to give you a strong foundation that stands in opposition to self-absorption and entitlement.
Even so, every generation throughout history has struggled with self-centeredness, and – if Time Magazine is right – you may find powerful influences in that direction as you move out of this peer group and into society at large. I invite you to reflect on the words of Jesus, who, when asked to state the greatest commandment in all of scripture, summarized the goal of life in two key statements: 1) love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 2) Love you neighbor as yourself.
Will you humor me for a moment by considering again the question I asked earlier: if your life was a movie, what would it look like? I invite you to consider the possibility that, in order to be part of an Academy Award winning movie rather than a low budget, box-office failure, you will need to give up the starring role in the movie of your life. Or, a step further, I invite you to consider joyfully accepting a role as a supporting actor, rather than as the star, in the greatest drama of all time. Would you consider playing a small, but vitally important and meaningful role in the story of what God has been doing throughout history to redeem mankind and to serve people? If so, then we need a different title for an article about you: not “the Me Me Me Generation,” but rather “the God, Others, and Me sub-generation.”
One exceptional graduate was Javier Fernandez-Han….
A tinkerer and inventor since age 7, Javier is a rising senior in high school. In 2008, Javier founded the non-profit organization Inventors without Borders to encourage and enable teens to use their talents to solve real-world problems. In 2009, Javier won the first place award in the Ashoka-Lemelson “Invent Your World” competition with his VERSATILE design, an algae and bacteria-powered system for providing food, fuel, fertilizer, and sanitation for developing communities. In 2010, he won the first place award for renewable energy in the Conrad Foundation “Spirit of Innovation” competition with his ACWa (Affordable Clean Water) design, a patent-pending solar, wind and geothermal-powered system for producing clean water from humid air at extremely low cost. The Conrad Foundation subsequently selected ACWa for commercialization support through their Portal program. Popular Science magazine named Javier as one of USA’s 10 top high school inventors in 2009 and again in 2011. Forbes magazine recently named Javier in their list of “30 under age 30 most influential Americans” in the energy industry. The JFK Presidential Library featured Javier in their Legacy Library in Science and Innovation. In 2010, Javier developed “Invent and Innovate”, a learning program to inspire and enable youth to use their creativity to invent products and services to serve their local communities. This program is being implemented in several Houston-area schools and is being adapted for implementation in India. During the summer of 2010, Javier worked for Martek Biosciences in Columbia, MD in the area of yeast-derived bio-fuels. In 2011, Javier launched “Innovation Foundry – MIE” to collaborate with My India Empowered, a NGO in India to rebuild a monsoon-damaged one-room school in the National Forest near Mumbai. Javier spoke on “De-Mystifying Creativity: You Don’t Have to be Creative to be Creative” at TEDxTheWoodlands 2011. He is a co-founder of the education design firm Play.Fully.Creative®. Earlier this year, Javier served as lead organizer for TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands. Javier hopes to study mechanical engineering in college and to continue inventing to serve developing communities.