News and Tribune


May 6, 2013

CUMMINS: Life begins at commencement

One important milestone in life is the commencement of it. Prior to adorning a cap and gown, you probably lived a somewhat low life, struggling, if you had any sense at all, to qualify for a “high” school diploma, or sheepskin as it was known back in the Age of Enlightenment. The high-school graduation ceremony is the unofficial cutting of the apron strings when you take the proverbial bull of your destiny by the horns. With a diploma in hand, many young men go in debt to buy a car to take girls out at secluded places to discuss the seriousness of their future.  

 Education teaches many things, but, at an early age, love for the opposite sex seems to take precedence over academics. Then, too quickly, a wife and children come into their lives, sealing their destiny. Where many young men go wrong is that they do not take heed to their commencement address, because they are not receptive to absorbing wisdom yet.    

Do you remember what your commencement speaker said? I remember mine — 65 years ago. He said, “sterling silver,” something about living an untarnished life. Inspiring until the next day when I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons. My grandfather said to me, “Clean the manure from the stalls in the barn, and scatter it on the fields.” There must be something better than this, I thought, and there was. However, whatever course your life takes, you will find that manure will build up, and to prevent drowning in it, you must scatter it.  

From that day in the barn, I worked my way up — or down — from nourishing the land to fertilizing infertile, young minds inside schoolhouses throughout our great land. As a high school principal, I helped coax more than 10,000 academically vacant young minds dressed in caps and gowns, wearing who knows what underneath, across the threshold to an uncertain future known only to God, but even He doesn’t know what a teenage mind might do.   

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