Delivered by Mr. Thomas Moran to the Class of 2014 on Saturday, May 24, 2014:
I was having a difficult time deciding what to say today, so I asked my wife for advice. She told me: “Don’t try to be too charming, witty, or intellectual. Just be yourself.”
Appropriately humbled, I had an uncharacteristic charming, witty, intellectual idea: what better message to give to a St. Francis graduate than “just be yourself”? Recommending that to any group of young men in a different environment might be the worst advice one could offer. But, having observed your development over the past four years, I feel confident in saying that to you. You have grown spiritually, had your minds and hearts enriched, and embraced the concept of brotherhood.
While not every one of you has the ability to be an exceptional intellectual, a stellar athlete, or an outstanding artist, each one of you is capable of goodness. Being a good person transcends all socioeconomic lines, ethnic, gender, and age groups, and takes no particular talent.
As the culminating Franciscan virtue of your careers, goodness embodies all of the other fifteen that were taught. Dennis Prager wrote: “Goodness is about character-integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” We have noticed you manifest your goodness often: in classrooms, on campus, at retreats and Christian Service, on athletic fields, and in artistic endeavors. We pray this extends beyond our boundaries.
At the end of the day, while it might be nice to be charming, witty, or intellectual (and many of you are), it is far more important to be authentically, simply, humbly good. Yet in the world you are headed toward, goodness is not celebrated as much as excellence, so continue your path to goodness by practicing other Franciscan virtues:
Humility: as CS Lewis reminds us, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Integrity: Harvey Mackay said: “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Compassion: Albert Schweitzer wrote: “The purpose of human life is to serve, to show compassion, and the will to help others.”
Service: In his graduation speech “You Are Not Special,” David McCullough stated: “The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
Beginning this afternoon, your goodness will not be based on solid color tucked-in polos and Dockers, your grooming, nor your ability to follow our handbook. It will be determined by how well you have integrated Franciscan virtues into your life. As St. Francis professed: “Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.” A St. Francis graduate’s actions not only define him, but potentially impact and influence others. Those actions will speak louder than your academic pursuits, personal characteristics, or temporal achievements, however substantial those may be.
So, as you move into the next phase of your life, don’t try to be too charming, witty, or intellectual. “Just be yourself.” Do try to be a Golden Knight, a man of virtue, a man of goodness. “Just be yourself.”
On behalf of the Board of Directors, our friars, faculty and staff, we send you forth with our love for goodness’ sake. Congratulations class of 2014!