Tom Cole Column: Dear Graduates

by Tom Cole

As the school year comes to a close and graduation season begins, I am thinking of the many high school and college seniors who will be celebrating their achievements differently than they expected. Although the coronavirus crisis has canceled and postponed many traditional commencement ceremonies, that should not lessen the sense of great pride and joy felt by this year’s graduates. And I want to extend my deepest congratulations and best wishes.

Graduating means that you have successfully scaled and overcome a series of challenges, and you have proven you are ready and prepared to advance beyond. Every graduate deserves to be honored, and I hope you will take the time to relish all that you have worked toward and accomplished, celebrating with your family and loved ones who are just as proud of all that you’ve achieved and who will continue to cheer you on as the next chapters of your life are written.

Though we are living through unusual times that caused senior year to take some unexpected turns, I want to challenge you to look on this moment in time as a weigh station – not the final destination – in the tremendous and unique journey of your life. In the days to come, I also want to challenge you to walk boldly ahead with your eyes and mind wide open to the endless opportunities and possibilities that await you.

Indeed, when I think back on the years since I graduated high school and college, I realize that most of my regrets are related to opportunities I didn’t seize, chances I didn’t take and service I didn’t render. Nearly all those mistakes happened because I was either afraid to take the risk, or I chose not to take the time to complete some worthwhile task. So, I urge the graduates, when you confront something, be willing to run the risk and be willing to take the time to see it through all the way to the end.

Finally, whether you plan to pursue more formal education or not, I challenge you to become a lifelong learner. No matter what stage or season in which life finds you, I encourage you to always leave room for personal growth.

With that, I wish you good luck and Godspeed. May your journey be interesting as I am sure it shall. But more importantly, may you find the peace and happiness that each and everyone one you deserve. Congratulations, Graduating Class of 2020!