The moxie and the bent

With JMU’s 2010 graduation only days away, I’ve been thinking about its significance.  Like a wedding or  a 21st birthday, we often get caught up in the celebration of the event without really thinking about its impact. No doubt graduation is significant as a milestone, a demarcation that for college grads marks that jumping off point where the pool is the big, real world.  No more lazy days of summer.  No more sleeping through classes.  And, frankly, not a lot of time to think about what to do.  The time to act has arrived.

But what does graduation REALLY mean, in a broader sense.  Statisticians will calculate how many new job-seekers will be hitting the pavement, how many students will be pulling up roots and moving across the country or around the world. Those are the stats, but graduation potentially really means something far more significant.  In a word, it is possibilty.  WHAT that possibility becomes is the primary responsibility of each graduate.

When my son graduated from high school, a very wise man told the graduates: “You have ONLY three choices.  You can spend your life, you can waste it, or you can give it away.”  Some graduates will, regrettably, waste their lives.  It is the nature of being human.  Some others will spend their lives on work, pleasure, achievement, wealth, status and on an endless list of pursuits that will benefit themselves primarily.  A third group will give their lives away — and this, I believe, is the message JMU wants them to hear as they leave JMU and enter the world. Give your life away to the betterment of others, to the collective good of the world.  That’s the message that JMU’s Be the Change heroes live every day. Being a force for change embodies the spirit of James Madison University — not to settle for ordinary lives, but to live extraordinary lives where giving back, paying forward, making positive change are not just watchwords or slogans, but represent a fundamental purpose for life. Why?  Because JMU’s graduates have been steeped, incubated as it were, in a culture where service and collaboration bypass platitudes and grow feet. It doesn’t mean they won’t be pursuing careers, achieving success and having fun, but it does mean that JMU has set a high standard of action that they will follow through on as they move throughout the world.

So when those 3,700 graduates receive their diplomas on Saturday, it’s a significant milepost certainly, but also it’s a harbinger of possibilities.  JMU graduates are leaving the university not simply to be absorbed into a workforce or to disappear into the obscurity of the ordinary, they’re leaving to change the world. That’s what makes graduation important.  Not the day, the mark in time, not even the acknowledgment of the achievement of four years of scholarship.  Instead, graduation is important because it marks that time when 3,700 individuals — who have the moxie and the bent to go out, to give and to act — start their journeys of change.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to The moxie and the bent

  1. I’d like to tell the newest JMU graduates what JMU Professor Emeritus of Political Science Paul Cline told me right before my graduation in 1988 — “Be the kind of person your friends can count on. Everything else will fall into place.”

    Dr. Cline taught me more life lessons than I can count, but that one serves me well. I am so glad that JMU students are still influenced by professors like Dr. Cline.

    Congratulations grads!!! GO DUKES!!!!


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