By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
Graduation 2021 — what a year! In the midst of this horrific pandemic, so many of you have had the courage, despite so many obstacles, to stay the course and graduate with distinction from high school, college and graduate school.
This year has been plagued by so much sickness, death, and divisiveness. Yet, so many of you have volunteered to help those in need by your commitment to community service.
Graduates, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always speak up and work for human rights; try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than any successful academic record. Showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice is more significant than a science formula. These are difficult lessons to learn because they demand that you risk all that you are now for what you could become tomorrow.
Look around you! We are living in a very challenging world. A new revolution is afoot; your generation is moving away from the indifference and the complacency of yesterday and is moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility. It’s happening around the world, especially in the Middle East and in Africa. It’s not happening among the political elite, but among our young, our students, your peers. It gives me hope that tomorrow will be better.
May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.
Let the teachings of those you admire become a part of you so that you may call upon them. It is the content and quality of your character that is important, not merely the actions you take. Don’t judge a book by its cover, or stop at the introduction. Read it through; seek the meaning and messages it offers for life. Everyone’s life is sacred, even those who are different from you or whom you do not like.
Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame, guilt and religion to shackle people down and divide them; set people free with your respect and nonjudgmental way.
We live in a world that is very deceptive. Don’t let the corrupt political rhetoric of our time blind your eyes, impair your hearing or shackle your dreaming. As you graduate, the social landscape that you must navigate is treacherous; be prepared to sail stormy waters, but don’t lose heart, draw on the goodness that lives within and the goodness of others to stay the course.
May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed or their sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Congratulations graduates of 2021! Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter, a little more hopeful and a better place to be!
Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.