COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS Delivered By Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor Vice President of the Republic of Liberia At the 2019 Commencement Convocation Of the Carver Mission Academy Held at the Effort Baptist Church Paynesville, Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday, July 30, 2019
- Mr. Principal, Faculty and Staff of the CALVARY MISSION ACADEMY;
• Officials of Government Present;
• Distinguished Platform Guests;
• Members of the 2019 Graduating Class;
• Student Body;
• Special invited Guests;
• Parents, Well-wishers, Guardians & Friends;
• Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let us pray.
Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, accept our praise for your unending mercy and grace towards us. Indeed only you deserve our thanksgiving and praise, not only today but always. For the blessings of all we see and do is evidenced by this celebration today. As we experience your true love, may our feet be guided by your light and truth and may your love enlighten our eyes to see the right path which lead to your divine direction.
Bless us now, I pray in Jesus name.
Special Guests, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; Mr. Principal, Faculty and Staff of the Calvary Mission Academy High; Members of the 2019 Graduating Class; Parents, Guardians, Well-Wishers and Friends;
I am truly humbled by your choice of me as your Guest Speaker for today; for I know that there are many others who could have been given this opportunity instead of me, and so I do not take your choice of me lightly.
I thank you sincerely, from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to spend your special day with you.
Permit me to firstly give thanks to those to whom it is due:
Firstly, to the Almighty God, the author and finisher of our FAITH.
It is said in Proverbs Chapter 9, Verse 10 – THE FEAR OF GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM, AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY ONE IS UNDERSTANDING. This is the most important lesson for a successful and fulfilled life.
Second, to our TEACHERS; who provide us the information and knowledge we need to make critical decisions and hopefully achieve our dreams. They stretch our minds; expand our horizons; and instill in us the concepts of possibilities.
Third, to our Parents and Guardians, who have given up of their substance to get you to this point. They sacrificed their present and future for your success. Believing that in their old age, you will reward them with your love and care.
Lastly, your siblings and friends, who are your peers and the ones who people will always compare you with. They constitute the mirror that reflects your inner self. Our people would say – show me your friends and I will show you who you are.
Each of these groups, on this special day, deserves your appreciation.
May all graduates please stand up and give a standing ovation to all those who have helped you reach this far.
Special Guests, The Principle, Faculty , Members of the Graduating Class of 2019, Parents, Guardians, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen , today, we gather together for a rite of passage which happens in most instances, after every 12 school years; thus moving young people from high school into the mainstream of life .
During the ceremonies which mark these rites of passage; it is expected that Parents and Guardians would come, give gifts and praises. Teachers would use their gavel to give the last instructions, and last threats. And the Guest Speaker would bring not only words of commendation, but that they would give food for thought to the Graduates, which hopefully set the basis for the next phase in their lives; words of wisdom and advice which they need in order to become successful in their life’s journey. And the Graduates would come with much hope and expectation for a better future.
Special Guests, Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen, Members of the Graduating Class;
As I stand before you this morning, I feel the same excitement, as my mind goes back 39 years ago to 1980, when the College of West Africa held its High School Graduation ceremonies at the Centennial Pavilion. The Class of 1980 (made up of 16 and 17 year olds) came with expectations of becoming lawyers, doctors, bankers and teachers; and gathered to listen to the Graduation Speaker of the day speak about what the prospects of our future would be.
At that moment in our Nation’s history (the beginning of the war years), our generation had begun to see the wanton destruction of properties, the loss of many lives, the violent overthrow of National Leadership; and strange, new, loud voices of those who called themselves the PROGRESSIVES – speaking of national ills, identifying those who they felt were responsible for the dismal state of our Nation; giving reasons why they felt that it was important to clean the slate; and how they thought the new State should be run.
In the midst of it all, there was deep fear and anxiety all across the nation; with the blood of many families being spilled, others running for their lives and yet others rejoicing. It was a nation being pulled apart from its roots, with others shouting – “that in time, new roots will grow better and stronger.”
I hope my description of that period will allow your mind’s eye to see how things were. And that you can imagine how we felt, as 16 and 17 young adults, graduating in such a chaotic situation. Allow me to digress for a moment; for as I remember the beginning of those tumultuous years. I wonder, even today, if the sacrifices then made were worth its weight?
And if in fact the path our nation had taken then, has brought us to a better place? Howbeit, as my Father used to say – TIME WILL TELL. Let’s leave our thoughts about the questions asked, and return to the story.
After the introduction of our Guest Speaker, we watched as she stood at the podium lost for the proper words needed to speak to us, as she nervously, fumbled with the pages of her speech her speech. Her actions were strange, for normally she was a straight and stern disciplinarian.
As I remember that day, long ago, I can still see her face, hear her trembling voice and feel the tremor of the fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of the times.
As a result, she spoke only for a short period, but the crux of her words of wisdom said to us during a very challenging time has remained with me up until today. Sadly today, after almost 40 years, our nation is still experiencing CHALLENGING TIMES. We have been on an almost 40 year wilderness journey. So much so, that I feel and find myself in the similar shoes of my 1980 graduation guest Speaker.
I therefore had to do a deep search, and ask myself over and over – whether those words from so long ago, can be used at this occasion today?
In retrospection I know that those words helped me put things into proper perspective; helped me acknowledge that though we lived in difficult times, that our destinies would be made or lost, depending on the decisions each of us would make . Knowing that in life, the test is taken before the lesson is learned.
As I stand before you today, I am reminded that each generation is 40 years. My hope is that each of you will make up the new chain of productive young people across our nation, who will help build upon the existing foundation for the new Liberia. It is also my prayer that the words of wisdom from so long ago, will help not only to encourage each of you (in spite of what you see today); but to teach you to always, and at all times, put your best forward.
And use the lessons from this story as road markers of wisdom for your journey; and lights which would help keep each of you, on the right path.
Members of the 2019 Graduating Class; the crux of the guest speaker’s Statement to the 1980 Graduating Class of the College of West Africa was:
“The journey of life will bring you many unexpected circumstances ; but you must always, muster up the inner courage to rise above your circumstances; in spite of the challenges and not only be determined to persevere, but to excel.
For you will always have only 2 options from which to decide from –
- (1). To either sit and wallow in your tears of confusion, hurt and disappointment; and remain caught in the difficulties of the moment OR
(2). To look beyond your tears, pain and disappointment; see the possibilities, and use your pain as a source of strength to move forward. Always keeping in mind, that the sky is only the beginning of what you can achieve. So seize the moment and never stop until you reach your goals.” End quote.
Members of the 2019 Graduating Class, today, you may not be living in the exact circumstances as we did at that moment; but indeed you are graduating at a critical juncture in our nation’s history.
And each of us can see the reality that, there are thousands of others graduating from High Schools across the nation and the world; with limited prospects to enter college; limited opportunities to find a meaningful job and minimum skills acquired in order to make it to the front of the line.
Your generation may not be facing a coup, or the violent overthrow of the ruling system (a situation I hope and pray will never be the choice of any other generation); but indeed you face an uncertain future.
You have a nation yet struggling with many challenges, families living in hopelessness, parents unable to provide the basic necessities for their children, businesses at the brink of closure, hospitals without drugs, schools without 21st Century educational platforms, and a nation which seem to have not yet found its way; grouping in the darkness. All of these circumstances have a bearing on your future plans.
I can only imagine the thoughts in your mind today, as you ponder questions such as – “How can I survive in this difficult socio, political, economic situation” and “ how can I make my dream a reality” and “What will my future be like” amongst other questions.
Permit me to be the answer to the myriad of the questions which plague your mind; for I am an example, that in spite of any current circumstance one might be faced with; the future is possible if you can only imagine it; believe in your heart that it is possible; and work with diligence and commitment to achieve it.
But… just close your eyes for a moment and paint the picture in your memory that you want to see of your future. Forget the current challenges and say to yourself, “my future is what I create. And keep this picture always in your front view. Do not think about the current looming challenges of this moment, as it may instill in you fear of the past, do not look sideways as you may see deep valleys; instead keep your eyes ahead , your mind on the limitless possibilities ; reach upwards for the stars, work hard and go out and do great things.”
For the past is over, the present is fading as the day; but the future lies ahead waiting for what you create. Always remember that your future will be only as big as the dreams you harbor, the plans you implement and the sacrifices that you are willing to make.
As you keep this thought in your mind’s eye, permit me to read to you a poem called “Dream Big”, which I pray will inspire you on your journey.
If there were ever a time to pause,
To make a difference,
To embark on something worth doing,
It is now.
Not for any grand cause,
But for something that tugs at your heart,
Something that’s’ your aspiration;
Something that’s your dream.
You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.
So have fun,
Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
There will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
Pack it up and call it quit.
Remember that trying times tell you that
You are pushing yourself forward.
That you are not afraid to learn by trying.
So don’t quit, hold on to your dreams
and one day, they will come true.
Take the steps necessary to live out your life’s dreams,
Knowing that what you want to do will cost you.
You will have to work hard.
You will have to make sacrifices.
You will have to keep learning and growing and changing.
But hold on to your dreams; for only those who dream can make those dreams come true.”
Permit me to ask each of you, a few rhetorical questions; which I hope will settle the issue.
My first question to each of you today is “Are you willing to pay the price for greatness?” For every great person has a story of great sacrifices. I hope you are, because you will find out that in this life most people are not willing to make great sacrifices, but want fame and glory without working for them. This is not possible, for every crown, comes first with a cross.
The second the question is how can one change the circumstances of their lives for better? This is an easier question. For indeed each person is the master of his or her own destiny; and has the ability to make their life better or bitter, by the choices they make.
The last question being – Can I become what I dream to me? Indeed YES, you can.
It is critical for you, during your free time, to answer these 3 questions as you move forward; for the simple answers are the seeds to be planted in your fertile mind which will germinate and grow into what you will be–either stepping stones to your destiny; or slippery stones for your defeat.
For now, more so than in the recent past, our nation is in desperate need of a rare breed of national leaders–patriots who love their nation enough to give their all for it; those who have been tried and tested; and have been found to believe in the supreme interest of the greater good, those who will work diligently to make a difference wherever they are.
They are not schemers who only want a job to enrich themselves at the expense of others; but are genuine change Agents with a Patriotic zeal to be a part of building a truly better Nation. Are you one of those rare breed of National Leaders? The answer to this question is a decision. I hope today you will make up your mind that you will do all you can to be so.
As you leave the walls of this Institution and join the greater society; be determined to change the course of our nation’s history by being different, by being better and pledging to work for a greater cause beyond yourself. You are duty bound to work for a greater and more equitable nation which ensures equality and justice for all. For indeed, all it takes is for each of us to practice fairness and equality in our daily interactions and learn to be our Brothers’ keeper.
This is your clarion call to duty, if you want to become one of the special ones.
This is the true National call to your generation, which is critical to our National forward march. For no nation should ever have to continue to choose between the lesser of two evils; but to choose instead those who are the nation’s best and brightest. This is your challenge, to determine and work so that each of you will be our nation’s best and brightest. For only those who make up this rare breed will transform our nation to what we truly want Liberia to be.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Graduating Class;
In closing let me leave you with words from a writer called Adlai Stevenson; of New York City; who made a clarion call to those in her generation. Permit me to use her words as a clarion call to energize each of you.
Let me quote for your hearing:
”What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our time?”
It is a patriotism that puts County ahead of self; one which is not short frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a life time. These words are easy to utter, but it is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles of equality and fairness, than to live up to them.”
I am of the opinion that these word form the basis for a call to this new generation of young Liberians; to put God first, nation second and Family third.
But in order to do so, one must let go of oneself and allow the spirit of the Almighty God to take complete control and order your steps.
For this is the only way to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and to guarantee that we will have the capacity to build a better nation together. For each one of you in this next generation has a part to play; and play it you must.
Today, and every day of your lives, you will have to decide between doing business the same old way or changing the status quo. You will have to decide whether your nation’s lifeblood is worth more than yours; whether in fact you are willing in your life’s journey to leave your world a better place for succeeding generations or to further damage the worn out fabric of our nation.
It is a daily conscious choice, which you will make during your journey; which will form the new building blocks, for the new Liberia of your dreams; for time is far spent, Liberia is 172 years old, and we can no longer leave things to chance by simply sitting on the side lines and hope for a better day. That better day will only come to pass when we together, plan for it, work for it and build it.
Each of you must determine thru your hard work and commitment to Unity, Excellence, Growth, Love and Development; thru which one day our dreams will soon become a reality. For only you can make your dream a reality. It is my hope that each of you will today dare to be different, by speaking words and acting in ways that inspire change in those around you; keeping in mind, that thoughts become words, words become actions and actions dictate outcomes.
Can we begin today to make a commitment to be more patriotic?
If you are, then will the Graduates please stand up and repeat with me.
“I know who I am; I am a critical building block of my Nation. I will make my voice and my actions count to develop myself, my family, my community and my nation. Today I pledge to be an agent for positive change, I pledge to love my nation and my Brothers and Sisters as I love myself; and I pledge to be the change I want to see in my generation. With hearts and hands, my Country’s cause defending; we meet the foe with valor unpretending…LONG LIVE LIBERIA, HAPPY LAND. A HOME OF GLORIOUS LIBERTY BY GOD’S COMMAND.
May this be my charge to keep. So help me God”.