Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Below are my remarks from the commencement ceremony that took place on Wednesday, May 30. 

You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. How many times have you heard that, or even thought that?  Especially when your brother or sister, or even your goofy Uncle John embarrasses you at one time or another.  Now, that may be true, but there’s also a cliché that says blood is thicker than water.  That being said, when you truly need that annoying brother or sister, or even goofy Uncle John, they will be there for you.  As a military brat whose dad was in the Navy, and as an Air Force veteran, I lived in eight places before I graduated high school, and ten places since.  My sisters live in Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina; so, my immediate family is hundreds of miles away.  What I lived, and continue to live, is another family truth.  Friends are family.

Your family continues to grow as you do.  When you were young, your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents took care of your every need – from putting food in your belly to putting band aids on your scraped knees.  They taught you how to tie your shoes, ride a bike, and most terrifying, how to drive a car!  (Yes, from my office, I’ve witnessed you leaving campus every school day since August, so you know who I’m talking about!)  Now, as you grew, those who cared about you increased in number as well.  How many of you have an Uncle Mike or an Aunt Barb; friends of your parents who are not blood relatives, but were always there for you?  Later, as you got older, your friends became more important to you; your BFF became your sister, and your best buddy became your brother from another mother.  Your sports team, musical ensemble, or club became your extended family.  Whenever a life changing challenge or celebration occurred, your family grew even more; whether it was your faith family or even the larger CV family, the CV community has a well-earned reputation in that it comes together like a family.

Graduates, I know this is your day.  You are being celebrated for accomplishing yet another of the many milestones in your life.  The reason I talked so much about family is because they have helped you discover who you are, and who you have yet to become.  They helped you form your beliefs and ideals, your interests and goals, your character, your confidence, your very essence.  When you look in the mirror, it will be hard not to notice the influence of your family, and I’m talking more than your dad’s eyes or your mom’s smile.

Your family is very proud of you today!  Just look around into the audience of the many people that are here for you, and all those who will gather with you after this ceremony.   Let’s take a moment and give them a standing ovation to thank them for getting you to where you are today.  The great thing about your family is that they will always be there for you.  And the cool thing about them is that your family will continue to grow.  As you enthusiastically embrace all that life has to offer, you will build more relationships; you’ll invite others into your family and, in turn, become part of theirs as well.

You might not remember all the information you learned in your thirteen years of school, but I am positive that you will never forget the people who impacted your life – your ever-growing family.  So, if you believe as I do, that friends are family, the old adage is partly false, you can pick your family.

On behalf of your parents, brothers, sisters, immediate family, and your ever-growing extended family, congratulations to each of you, the amazing graduates of the Class of 2018!

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