My Graduation Speech
I had the honor of delivering the following graduation speech on June 4, 2016, at the North Carolinians for Home Education commencement service held at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. One of my daughters, Molly Caroline Carman, participated in the ceremony, becoming the fourth of our seven children to graduate. In this article, I share what I presented to this graduating class of homeschoolers.
I know the school year is over, but let’s do a quick check to see what you remember about history.
A significant event happened toward the end of the 20th century, one that changed the course of history. This event directly impacted your family, your church, and your community. Do you know what this world-changing event was? You were born!
Now, almost two decades later, you have arrived at another historic milestone: high school graduation.
Somewhere between these two events, your family began a journey. They may have started this journey full of anticipation and excitement, possibly reluctance, maybe even fear and trepidation. I am referring to the day your parents chose to walk by faith and begin homeschooling.
Today we celebrate an important accomplishment, a significant achievement, a life milestone. Let’s celebrate in style and make this a memory worth keeping—one that makes us smile when we look back and reminisce.
Think about it: You’ve just completed a rare and amazing experience. Although North Carolina ranks high among U.S. states in the number of homeschool families, still only six percent of students in the Tar Heel State are educated at home. You are the fortunate ones. You’ve had the opportunity to study the best content under the guidance of the best educators—teachers who love you and care about your well-being more than any professional instructor ever could. And you got to do it all in the best possible learning environment—at home, surrounded by family and loved ones.
Today you graduate from high school. But what does this really mean? And for crying out loud, what comes next? Does your education end here? I think not.
My challenge to you is to leave here determined to learn, live, and defend the Christian faith. As I said, I want this to be a memorable occasion, and among the things I want you to remember, to etch upon your hearts and minds, are these three points: learn, live, and defend the faith.
If you want to be a success in life, it is imperative that you continue to learn. Learning must become a lifestyle. Hopefully, you already love to learn. Yet real education is about whose knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is being imparted. According to God’s Word, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord. God is sovereign, mighty, holy, awesome, and full of glory. And He is to be feared.
So if you choose to attend college or seminary and study theology, you certainly need to fear the Lord. But what about other subjects?
If you study astronomy, you need to fear the Lord.
If you study biology, you need to fear the Lord.
If you study criminology, you need to fear the Lord.
If you study dentistry, you need to fear the Lord.
If you study entomology, you need to fear the Lord.
You probably get the idea, so I’ll skip to the last letter of the alphabet: If you study zoology, you need to fear the Lord.
Whether you continue your studies in apologetics, philosophy, politics, economics, business, music, graphic arts, psychology, nursing, law, science, engineering, history, foreign language, literature, or math, you need to fear the one true God who created it all. A creation-based, God-centered approach to learning any subject is vital if your goal is to obtain knowledge and understanding of truth. Just look around you: The heavens declare the work and glory of the Lord. Stand in awe of what He has done.
Scripture is full of reminders to “think on these things,” to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and to “take every thought captive” to make it obedient to Christ.
As you pursue learning, I encourage you to make the knowledge of Jesus Christ paramount. The main purpose of your life and studies is to know Him and make Him known. To know God and Jesus is eternal life. Therefore, Christ is the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.
Scripture tells us that His divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him. Everything! If you truly believe this, then you will choose to act upon it.
In Acts 4:13, the Jewish leaders were astonished that Peter and John spoke with such courage and clarity, and they made two important observations. First, these men were uneducated. (The NIV translation says that they were “unschooled.” You may recognize this as a method of homeschooling.) Second, the Jewish leaders realized that these men had “been with Jesus.”
So my first challenge to you is to be with Jesus and make sure that your learning starts by knowing Christ and making Him known.
My second challenge to you is to live. Really live! And that requires love. As you go about each day, week, month, and year, yes, you should fear God; but you must also love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
To do so means that you will follow the path He has set before you. Most people in this world say no to His plans, His ways. Be one of the few who say yes and follow His direction by taking the ancient paths.
The abundant life in Christ is a journey filled with exciting adventures and, yes, trials. These trials are meant to sanctify you and mold you into the likeness of God’s Son. You will need Him to help you persevere and stand firm. If you seek Him first in everything you do, He will gladly help.
As you choose to love God with all your heart—and love your neighbor as yourself—and stand firm through every storm, you will give hope to a world that wants and needs answers to the big questions of life. Questions like: Who is God, and does He even exist? Who am I, and why am I here? Who is my neighbor, and what is my responsibility to him? What on earth does it mean to have dominion over all of God’s creation? And the classic: What is truth?
DEFEND THE FAITH
My third and final challenge today is to defend the Christian faith. Scripture tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us and do so with gentleness and respect. After all, Christ is the only one who can offer true and genuine hope to a dying world.
So what are you prepared to stand for? If you don’t know what you stand for, then you might just fall for anything. You must submit to God and resist the devil. Your very life depends on it! Stand on the solid rock of God’s truth, not the shifting sand of this world. The enemy is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. And in today’s culture, most people are sitting ducks and easy prey. Don’t be one of them.
The next four to five years will be critical in your life journey. It’s possible that you will make decisions that will prove devastating. But by the grace of God, it’s also possible for you to grow and mature and make decisions that will change the course of history, impacting your life and those around you for the better. Today marks the beginning of that journey. Make it a good one.
Be one of the few who take the road that is less popular these days yet is proven to lead to blessing and life. Choose the ancient paths, the good way, and find peace for your soul.
So what does this mean from a practical standpoint?
Here’s some unconventional direction that I’ll bet isn’t shared at many commencement ceremonies these days:
- Guys, be the man God created you to be.
- Girls, be the woman God created you to be.
- Stay pure while you are single.
- Then get married. And don’t wait too long.
- Have children—lots of them.
- For heaven’s sake, please homeschool your kids.
- Train them intentionally and diligently.
- Tell the next generation the great and mighty deeds of Jehovah.
- Stay faithful to your spouse until death does you part.
- Persevere in your commitment to God and family.
After all, the traditional, Christ-centered family—one man and one woman being faithful to one another and lovingly raising the children that God gives as rewards—may actually be our best apologia (i.e. our best defense of the Christian faith).
In doing all this, you will bring hope to a lost and lonely world. That is your mission, should you choose to accept it.
Congratulations, graduates! You’ve made it. It’s time to celebrate, time to post lots of pictures and make some lasting memories. But before you go to bed tonight, make sure you give your parents a nice big hug and a little pat on the back. They deserve it.
Now go forth and boldly learn, live, and defend the Christian faith in order to give hope to a world of people in need of God’s love and salvation.
Thanks for reading. Did you make it to a graduation ceremony this year? If so, what are some of the highlights, memories, and takeaways. I’d love to get your feedback. You can simply write something in the comment box.
If you enjoyed this article, check out High School Students: Write a Resume, Parenting Teens (a.k.a. Riding the Mechanical Bull), and Habakkuk 1:5 Devotional: God at Work.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is the author of four illustrated children’s books designed to help kids learn a biblical worldview. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now! Davis’s four books include: Good Morning, God, based on Deuteronomy 6, A Light for My Path, an ABC book based on Psalm 119, In the Beginning, based on the Creation account in Genesis, Psalms to Know Earl, and Truths to Know Early (Summer 2018).