By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
We are a nation out of control. The partisan divide has become almost unbridgeable. Our social media is feeding a frenzy that has little respect for human dignity and basic human rights. Where is the notion and concept of accountability? We need to hold each other accountable for the choices we make. We must lead by example and it must begin at the top!
The president is our president; he must lead by example, words and deeds. He should be the principal architect of our national social discourse. We should be able to engage in difficult conversations without the fear of demeaning responses because we disagree!
Those men and women elected to lead us should be about leadership that builds bridges not walls, that unites not divides. They should be about a civil discourse that brings us together and does not polarize us. Unfortunately, there is no bipartisan dialogue or working together on building compromise.
The blame game must end. We must demand accountability from all who lead us in public life. Our elected representatives from both sides of the aisle must get about doing the people’s business. They must forge a bipartisan effort to solve the great problems facing our nation and work at creating a cooperative spirit that seeks common solutions that will resolve our problems and make America great!
Despite the social landscape, this year’s senior class is extraordinary. A growing number of our high school seniors are choosing career paths that serve the needs of others. There is such a positive spirit around community service and a spirit of inclusiveness that is refreshing, especially since we live in a world that seems more grounded in narcissism and self-centeredness, rather than thinking about others first, especially those in need.
Seniors, as you continue your journey do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than a 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 complacency of yesterday, and moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility.
As you graduate from high school, keep these simple thoughts in mind: May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and to work for peace grounded in justice and human rights.
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.
Don’t judge a book by its cover or stop at the introduction. Seek the meaning and messages it offers for life, for everyone’s life is sacred, even those who are different from you or who you do not like. Be more inclusive than exclusive. 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.
May you never become too concerned with material matters, but instead place immeasurable value on the goodness in your hearts and the hearts of others. Find time each day to see beauty and love in the world around you. Realize you have limitless opportunities and possibilities.
Get up every day and be grateful for what you have. Suck the marrow out of life, as you face life’s challenges. Don’t see the glass as half empty; only see it as half full; see every life experience and human encounter as a learning experience, as an opportunity to grow and become more than you are now.
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 you hope for in the world.”
Congratulations graduates of 2017. Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.