Commencement 2013: Living a Life of Transparency, Grace and Joy

We are gathered here for:

A day that many thought would never come,

A day that many thought came too soon

And a day that all of us will not remember a thing this commencement speaker said!!!

Frankly, that is how it should be….for this day is about you…. your families, your accomplishments, and the contributions yet to come.

A Sea of Achievement

Despite the perilous nature of making an address that perhaps no one will remember, I relish the opportunity to be with you today.  Looking at you dressed in academic regalia, I see a vast sea of achievement.

Achievements in the past–which got you in to this university in the first place,

Achievement in the present—which is celebrated in your graduation today;

And, achievement in the future–with all the potential your education has given you.

I am supremely confident that each of you will be a success as you move from here today.  However, the measure of your success will not be calculated solely by the degrees you obtain, the jobs that you land or, even your net worth.   Rather, the true measure of your success will be how you …..and, for that matter, all of us, live our lives.

The Parable of the Lamp

As a person of faith, I turn to scripture for the orientation and compass of my life.  In Luke chapter 8, verses 16 and 17, we find the Parable of the Lamp where Jesus tells us there is a light that shines on all of us.  This light will ultimately show everything we do and what we are about as professionals, family members, and people — even those things we have tried to keep secret.

For in this great celebration of life today, with young children running around, the “seasoned” persons of a certain age join in wishing well the hope and dreams of the fresh faced graduates of 2013.  There is a reality that all of us must face–a reality that we should not fear; but a reality that the Parable of the Lamp is concerned with.  That reality is death. For when we die, the lamp shines brightest because our lives will be in full view where our triumphs can be celebrated, our stumbles can be reviewed, and our secrets will be revealed.

Living lives of Transparency, Grace and Joy

Again, I am confident that all of you in the class of 2013 will be successful.  The real question is how you will — or for that matter, how will all of us live those successful lives under the lamp?   A closer reading of the scripture in Luke, chapter 8, verses 16 and 17, provides Jesus’s blueprint for living our lives under the bright light of the lamp.

Jesus is calling for us to live:

Lives of Transparency,

Lives of Grace

And, lives of Joy.

Let’s take a few moments to examine these life affirming elements.


The lamp light is intense as it shines in every nook and corner of our being.  When we are not transparent, we spend energy, time, and effort on the cover-up of the trivial at the expense of advancing the good.

The lamp light gives us the freedom to live life in the open, to peruse our dreams, confident that we are operating with honesty.  America is at its best when it is transparent.  For most of our existence as a nation, America was not transparent about the gap between our professed belief that “All Men Are Created Equal” and the actions of our government and some citizens.  So, in the name of all of us, our government legally made people of color and women second class citizens.

The lamp light exposing this lack of transparency took many forms:

The women suffrage movement of the 1920’s,

The civil rights moment of the 1960’s

The marriage equality movement of today

These critical flash points prove – to our citizens and to people around the world, the real genius and goodness of our nation.  That when the lamp light of transparency shines, America, often after great difficulty and struggle, will ultimately make the change needed to create a more transparent and perfect union……where all people are created equal.


Grace is that rare understanding that what affects some of us affects all of us.  And, that we are morally obligated to do something about it.  The idyllic setting of this campus belies the endemic of poverty, violence, and hopeless visited on the citizens of this town just a few short blocks away from this citadel.

The Great Recession, as cruel as it was and still is, has provided an opportunity for what I call “Resourceful Capitalism”.  The unleashed combination of social media, technology, and innovation makes it possible for each one of you to create jobs, not only for yourselves, but entire companies that can make money and employ people in ways never thought of before.  I urge you to be graceful and use “Resourceful Capitalism” to provide jobs and opportunities to those who need help just outside of our gates. I urge you, the non-capitalist in this class, to be graceful and use your talents to educate, heal, and sustain those who are down and out wherever they reside. – The lamp light requires and demands it, because scripture teaches us that for whom much is given — so much more is expected.


In a moment, you will be become alumni of this great school.  Looking back, many of your fellow alumni will tell you that the most fun time of their lives were the years spent in college.  Judging from the shenanigans that occurred when you marched in, the same is true for the class of 2013!

However, I urge you not to confuse fun with joy.  Fun should be a big part of our lives.  We should seek fun and embrace it whenever we can… But, fun is fleeting.   It lasts for just the moments that we are in it.  However, joy lasts a lifetime…. And, God built us for joy.  The ultimate joy is when we are living our lives following God’s instructions; doing what He intended for us to do.   Psalm 40:8 is my guidepost for joy: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

The lamp light shines brightly when we are following the joyful instructions of our Lord:

-The joy of satisfaction for a job well done

– The joy of parenting children

– The joy of living a life under the lamp light of transparency, grace and joy.

The lamp light of joy gives us the ability to have joy – even in difficult times.

I have a news flash for you….As you leave the safe cocoon of this school, the fun quotient of your life may decrease a wee bit

As you are stymied in a job search,

Frustrated with the long line at Starbucks

And terrified with your student loan bill!

However, true joy is when you can face the things in life that are not fun:

A career setback

A bitter divorce

The loss of a love one

With the knowledge, confidence and determination that God is going to make a way

Despite the setback

Despite the hardship

Despite the bad Frappuccino!

We can simply look to the headlines of the past year to find people who maintained joy when the lamp light of unthinkable trauma found them.

The lamp light found people with joy in Newtown

The lamp light found joy in our wounded heroes coming home to an uncertain future

And now, the lamp light is finding joy in the people amidst the rubble of Moore, Oklahoma

The truth about life is this:

The lamp light of heartache, sorrow and disappointment will come….however, we will triumph through these difficulties when we face them with joy.

What’s In Your Hand?   

In the movie, The 10 Commandments, God had a question for Moses….The question repeated over and over again to Moses was, “What’s In Your Hand?  And what was in his hand was a staff.  And for Moses that staff represented 3 things:

His Profession – After all, Moses was a Shepherd.

His Income – Moses lived before the days of the 401K or American Express.  All of his money was tied up in his sheep.

His Talents – As a Shepherd, Moses used the staff deftly to control his sheep.

With the lamp light shining, God enabled Moses to use that staff to do some magical things.

——Remember that little feat called parting the seas.

Class of 2013, in a few moments a diploma will be in your hand.  And, with the lamp light of your post college career shining, the question will be:

———————What will you do with the diploma in your hand?

Will your lamp light shine with the Transparency of – Griffin Bell, a graduate of this university’s law school who used his diploma to serve with distinction as a federal judge and Attorney General of the United States.

Will your lamp light shine with the Grace of – Anita Ross, a graduate of the school of liberal arts with a degree in biology; who used her diploma as a scientist devoting 31 years to the education of high school students in this area.

Will your lamp light shine with the Joy of – Dr. James Oglesby, a medical school graduate who has used his diploma to prove at 75 that is never too late to go for the gold, as he is setting state, national, and even world records as a track and field athlete.

Class of 2013, what will you do with the diploma in your hand?

I know it will be for good,

I know it will be significant

And I know it will be great

With the lamp light now shining on you, Class of 2013, go forth and accomplish all that and so much more, living lives of



And Joy

May God’s riches, blessings, and His lamp light of Transparence, Grace and Joy shine on you and those that your love —- for all the days of your life.

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