Last year, my Charms Chapel speech took an hour to write at 2am. It was a simple stroll down memory lane. This year, my speech has come down to the wire. I wanted it to be unpredictable, but not like I aspire to be a graduation speaker. So I decided to throw it back to my senior year and honor our past Chaplain. Mixed with a little yuppie advice and some young gun style, I came up with this:
This is the time of year when amazing women like Michelle Obama and Amy Poehler get to share their words of wisdom to graduates all over the country. I’m neither, obviously, but I hope what I have to say will stick with you at least through the afternoon.
Dear Class of 2015,
When I was a student here, Chaplain Anne Riggs was our School Chaplain and she started the first chapel of each school year with this reading: Numbers, Chapter 13: 1-33. She called it the Grasshopper Homily, and it always resonated with me.
13 The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran.
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
It’s not hard to see the parallels. Canaan was the real world. Every single adult was a Giant. And I was a grasshopper.
Since graduating from St. Margaret’s, I have felt this feeling on more than one occasion; like I had worked so hard and made it to the promised land, only to find that I was still just a grasshopper in a sea of giants, vastly more knowledgeable and more experienced. I guarantee at some point, you will feel this way as well, whether it’s your first day of college, your first job, or even, like myself, at soon-to-be 30. It’s very overwhelming, feeling like you’re the youngest person in the room all over again.
However, Isaac Newton also had something to say about this. “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Education replaces an empty mind with an open one and you will never have the opportunity to learn and grow so much in so little time, as you will for the next four years.
At my SMS Graduation, Lee Boudreaux, class of ’86 was our speaker and she said, “Anyone who stands behind a podium during the month of May feels compelled to tell their audience to go out and follow their dreams. There’s probably some fellow down at the Moose Lodge at the other end of town, telling a bunch of deer hunters that they should go and follow their dreams even as we speak.”
So aside from telling you to Dream big, stay foolish and wear sunscreen, here are some other things to keep in mind:
Be open to making connections.
Find mentors and read the books they read. Real books.
Know that it’s not just about making career connections, but also about building relationships, with giants and with grasshoppers alike.
Remember we not only grow with our professional accomplishments but multi-dimensionally as humans. It’s what makes us truly interesting.
Celebrate that you went to an all-women’s school, because you will see the difference it makes in just a few short months.
Find a cause and share it with others.
Help build something that stands the test of time.
The SMS Alumnae Association can be a valuable resource for all of this. I often say that some of the smartest, most inspiring people I know are the ladies I graduated with. Excelling in the fields of law, medicine, science, education, business, the arts and more, we are constantly learning and growing. It is a testament to the magic of this place.
You are joining a great network of over 1,900 women, and 3 men, who share the same traditions, memories and sisterhood. It is a network that stands on the shoulders of those who came before, helping each new generation grow and thrive, and building a more solid foundation for those to come. Nineteen hundred of us who all started out just as you have, as grasshoppers. Whether you know this or not, we have been watching you and we’re excited to see where you will go as ambassadors of St. Margaret’s School.
So young grasshoppers, Padawans, novices, soon-to-be giants and St. Margaret’s graduates, enjoy your time in college and beyond. You’ll find it’s not such a scary place after all. Come back often to share your experiences, with us and with each other. And as you grow in age, may you always grow in grace.
Congratulations and welcome to the St. Margaret’s Alumnae Association.
The chapel service is tomorrow afternoon. I think for one of my last duties as President, this is a pretty good note to leave on.