He was only eighteen, one of several valedictorians at Wayne Valley High School. Yet his message contained the wisdom of one generations older.
The heat was unbearable, just topping three digits. I sat in the bleachers watching my grandson’s class of over 360 young men and women bid farewell to thirteen years of formal education. Preparing to transition into the world of adulthood and self-sustainability, the blue and white cap and gowns painted an encouraging picture on the football field on the evening of June 20th.
As the first of several speakers approached the podium, I took a much-needed sip of water from my water bottle preparing to keep myself well hydrated throughout the many anticipated long-winded speeches. Farhaad Naim cleared his throat and began. A few light-hearted jokes brought laughter from those sitting in the hot metal stands. “Many will tell you to go out into the world, get a great job with a fantastic salary, be successful, buy a nice car and house, fulfill your dreams, and never give up. But not me. While success and money are nice, they are highly overrated.”
Hmm, I thought. That’s interesting. I wonder where he is going with this. I leaned forward, anxiously awaiting his inspiring message.
“The most important thing in life is to be a good person. In whatever way possible, whether in small ways or large, do good things for others. Treat one another with kindness.”
Like fans at the Superbowl, the audience went wild with applause. I wanted to run over and hug him but I knew my grandson would die of embarrassment. “Be a good person. Do good to others.” More profound words have never been spoken. This, by far, was the most meaningful commencement address I’d ever heard. We all strive for success and nice things but I couldn’t agree more with Farhaad. The most important and rewarding aspect of life is achieved when we share a kindness with another.
Years ago, Donald Trump was asked to give a commencement address at a large university. His message for those in business was “If someone cheats you, get even.” I was appalled! Not only was his message one of vengeance, but the college paid him $250,000 to give it! Farhaad’s message was ever so more worthy and cost the township not a penny. It trumps the Donald’s by a mile. It just goes to show you – money can’t buy everything, especially wisdom. “Be a good person. Do good to others.” Priceless. Too bad Mr. Trump wasn’t there.