Valediction: Luis Rosa

I am standing here in front of you feeling both humbled and a bit unsure. As you know I have been with you for a very short time. The fact is I barely know who you are. But here I am, standing in front of you with the task of sharing final thoughts before you leave this wondrous, but daunting, and yet magical hill.

Since you also don’t know me as well, you don’t know that I am prone to cliché’s and oh-so-tiresome narrative. I will spare you, well somewhat spare you from frothy and colorful rhetoric. I also promised during our commencement run through that I would not deviate from traditional valediction themes and go on about my view of current American Politics. It’s too bad, I can do a pretty good Donald Trump imitation.

Before senior dinner, I had decided to write and share a brief commentary on finding happiness in this messy and complicated world. I was going to talk about taking the time to appreciate the gifts of our natural world and enjoying simple pleasures. I was going to share parts of a Robert Service poem that equated success with happiness. But that was before I spent time with one of our graduating students at senior dinner. At dinner I asked them about their life. They told me about themselves and they also told me about their mother. They told me about how to this day their mother was trying to save the world. That despite all that was ugly and wrong with society: poverty, violence, disease and every -ism you can imagine, she remained hopeful and believed humanity was worth saving. They told me about the service work their mother has done all over the world. They told me about how their mother has acted selfless without asking for much in return. They told me their mother has had her share of life challenges.

How, I asked, could she maintain such compassion in the midst of so much human selfishness and greed? Their answer, well I will now refrain from cliché’ and worn rhetoric. What I will say is the answer reminded me we all have a choice in how to be in the world. This student’s mother had made a choice. A choice that involved virtue and empathy. A choice that creating love added love to both the world and one’s own life. So what I will leave you with is not to seek the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but actually being the rainbow in a world that suffers too many dark and rainy days.

I will end with this poem from Mary Oliver:

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange 

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again 

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands 

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails 

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it 

the thorn
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning, 

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.