To the Class of 2009

Benjamin Button: [Voice over; letter to his daughter] For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.


Dear Graduating Class of 2009,

Had a college or high school, shucks even an elementary school, invited me to give their commencement speech, I would have gladly accepted.  I'd of put on a tie even.  But no one asked.  Therefore, I'm writing you a letter which you will probably never see. However, there is a sliver of a chance you might for I now have 14 followers, that's two more than Jesus had, and sometimes followers can spread the word.  Sometimes.

Here is my advice, boiled down to three little words, as you step across your particular threshold: Choose your life.

There will be days when life will choose for you.  You will wake up feeling weak and the doctor will whisper cancer. You'll get a phone call that Mama died.  Your company will downsize leaving no room for you.  The note on the kitchen table will read I've fallen out of love with you - goodbye.  There will be days like that; such is the way of this life on this planet.  

But there will be other days, maybe just as many if not more, when life will say Choose.  The reins will slack enough so that you can choose the next direction or the next word or the next bite.  Each and every day we make decisions either for or against the precious life we've been given.  Phrases like well, whatever or I really don't care are not acceptable; they are the words of a coward.  There are plenty of cowards who are alive, but it's only the brave who are living.

Yes, there are consequences to every choice, but I'm afraid we sometimes focus so much on what the consequences might be that we strip away the absolute rush in the veins that comes from being able to make the choice.  It's like missing the questions for the answers and questions, at least in this life, are why we keep getting up in the morning. The questions always come first; they are the dew on the morning.  

You need to know, if you don't already, that people will try and make your choices for you.  Sometimes, oftentimes, these are the people closest to you.  As you choose your life, be firm but not mean.  It takes a while to learn how to do that, maybe a long, long time, but it's worth figuring out how to do.  If you hurt some people, often those closest to you, as you learn this, then you can choose to say I'm sorry or not.  The choice is yours.  But as for the meanness, remember this: There's no excuse for being an asshole.  I thought about saying that differently, but I chose to say it in a way you'd remember it.  And hopefully you will.

So there you have it:  Choose your life.  Congratulations on getting to this point.  Whether by hook or by crook, you've made it this far.  Where and how you go from here is not entirely up to you, but you get to have a say in it.  You really do. I hope you make the best of it.




  1. Well, I'm one of your followers. This letter won't stop with me but will be forwarded to a number of grads both HS and College that I've celebrated with over these weeks.

  2. I've printed it to insert in the cards I send. Maybe a coupe of those recipients will stop at your site for a visit or two.

    I'm followin' but not as a follower I guess.

  3. Choosing to lurve this one, John.

  4. oh man.

    My little sister is graduating next Friday night. This will be attached to a gift I'm giving her!!

    Wonderful words!

  5. came across your blog from a link.

    i'm graduating HS on saturday.
    i cried.

  6. Once again you leave me with a mess of thoughts swirling. I've attempted to put them into words, but it's like nailing jello to a tree. Head over tomorrow if you get a minute and you can read "the rest of the story."

  7. Your words reminded me of this quote from a former pastor, John Leach:

    "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming..."

    We will all experience those who support us and who are critical. Yet the life we have is ours to live.

    Proud to be one of the 14...and I don't "follow" individuals very often, I might add. They either have to be close personal friends or people who genuinely speak into my life.

  8. i've been pondering what words to offer my own class of sixth graders as they leave the safety of elementary schoool and walk into the greater sphere of junior high and beyond. i only have one more chance to say anything. reading your blog in the wee hours of this morning,i wish i'd thought of asking someone to come and speak to them. but alas time now allows for that person to only be me. however, some essence of your words will be spread to them, john, to be the chooser in their own life.