Outstanding guidance for our young people: Katie Warner’s Commencement Address to the graduates of the Class of 2019, Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, Georgia
What a blessing it is to be back at my own alma mater, witnessing this milestone day for all of you soon-to-be graduates. I’d like to share three brief thoughts with you this afternoon as you begin the next chapter of your adventure.
First, have the courage to believe in and stand up for objective truth.
When you go to college or venture into the workplace, you’ll likely be told that truth can be different for everyone. This usually sounds something like: “You can have your truth and I can have my truth, but don’t impose your views – your morality – on me.” Instead, have the courage to believe in objective truth.
Objective truth can’t change based on someone’s individual perception. An objective truth is universal; true for every person. When you believe in objective truth, you see the world as it really is.
Your Catholic education has taught you to do this, and while others will try and sway you toward subjective truth—a truth that changes with your feelings, with current trends, or with the desire not to ruffle any feathers—dare to be countercultural and to believe that truth, especially moral truth, cannot change. Truth, unlike ice cream, has no “flavor of the month.”
Be brave in your defense of the truth, and remember that standing for truth isn’t about being intolerant or judgmental, but always about love, true freedom, and clear thinking.
And, when in doubt, if you’re not sure what objective truth is in a given situation…call Fr. Tran.
Second, strive for authenticity—for realness—in our digital age.
The smartphone isn’t going anywhere, but what will start to disappear in our lives if we aren’t careful in this digital age is authenticity.
Allow me to offer you a challenge: when you’re having a moment you never want to forget, once in a while, just soak it in the natural way. Live fully in that present moment, and don’t worry about sharing it with everyone you know (and don’t know) or capturing the perfect photo of it. Maybe the memory was meant just for you.
Secondly, have authentic relationships and encounters—whether it’s with family, friends, someone you are falling in love with, or even the cashier in the market checkout line—have real, uninterrupted conversations. Make eye contact. Take time to develop face-to-face relationships with people who fill you up, ask you hard questions, encourage you, and help you become your authentic self.
Third and finally, look up.
A woman went skydiving and, after making that grand jump from the plane, started panicking as she looked toward the ground below, gripped by the fear that comes when you’re not totally in control…that is until she remembered the important words of her instructor: “Don’t forget to look up.”
When I left Blessed Trinity, I had a ten-year plan. I was going to go to the only college I applied to (because I was sure it was the absolute right fit for me), receive the only degree I thought I’d ever need, later get my doctorate and be a professor at a prestigious school. At some point, I’d probably get married and maybe have a kid or two, but of course I’d do so while maintaining a high level of success in my work.
I’ll skip to the end of the story. None of that happened, at least not in that way, or in that order, or at all how I pictured or planned it.
Twelve years after I made that plan, I see that God had a different plan, a much better one.
And that better plan—the far more adventurous, far more fulfilling one—couldn’t have unfolded like it did if I didn’t keep my eyes and my heart on Him.
Stay close to your Catholic faith. Never leave the sacraments, which help direct your gaze upward. Pray, every day, to discover and rediscover (when you’re a slow learner like I am) God’s will for you. Be prepared to let God surprise you, as you follow Him down some crazy, unexpected roads that will lead you to far greater happiness than you originally thought possible.
If you take one thing with you as you walk out the doors of Blessed Trinity today for what will at least symbolically be the last time, let that one thing be your Catholic faith—the one thing that makes your Catholic education most unique—an education that has hopefully taught you that in God’s eyes, there are no AP students, no jocks, no drama kids and band students, no popular or unpopular kids… there’s just you. Irreplaceable, totally unique you, whom God loves and holds in existence every moment of every day you’re here—because He has a plan for you. Just you. A plan no one else can live like you can.
Now you get to do the fun part—and go find out what it is.
Just don’t forget to look up.