The letter to the graduate:
Do not pawn your values. You might find that it wasn't worth the trade you made. Stay true to who you are at your core. Your survival will come down to knowing who that is. Take what you have learned with you and sit it on a shelf. It is only one volume of the collection of your experiences. The new things that you will learn will add to the collection and grow your character. Listen often, but do not be afraid to speak. It requires discipline to do the first, and courage to do the latter. Discipline and courage are the qualities of a leader.
Make no sacrifice of your self-identity in order to be accepted by others. You will learn that the only real friends you have are those who accept you for the good person you are, just the way you are. Lay down your phobias of people who are different than you. You might find that you are the different one to someone, too. Learn a lot so that you are smart, but never become too smart so that you cease to learn. The quality of your life depends on it.
Set goals and prioritize. You will accomplish more when you are clear about what it is you want to do. Be willing to serve now and you might find that it will position you to be served later. Follow your heart and learn to trust your gut. You have a built-in navigational system, and if you stay in tuned with it, you will avoid some costly detours. Recognize distractions and be diligent in your efforts to dismiss them. Stay focused on your destination even if it means you have to go at it alone. Everyone that starts out with you won't be there at the end.
Do not be blind to consequences. You have learned that every choice that you make carries consequences. You can choose not to see them, but it will not stop them from existing. They are real and when they are a result of a poor choice, they can be life altering.
Dare to complete what you have started. This day, this time, this moment does not represent the end, but the beginning where you can create a new day, a new time, and a new moment for your life. Dare to stay the course to become all that you were meant to become. Your purpose has known you since your birth and now it is up to you to find where it lies and become acquainted with it. Let the quest after it lead you on a fascinating and fulfilling journey to your best self.
I am confident that you will get there because you are driven by one of the most powerful of forces-desire.
I am proud of you for making it to this day and for facing the uncertainty of tomorrow with a very certain faith.
You have given me promise and I cannot wait to meet you. Thank you and congratulations graduate.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.