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Graduation Advice from Mike Farris

May 19–23, 2014   |   Vol. 119, Programs 46–50
Originally Aired: May 14–18, 2012 | Vol. 112, Programs 6–10

To those homeschoolers who are graduating high school this year, our host Mike Farris has a message especially for you! Tune in on Home School Heartbeat to hear him answer some important questions that arise for graduating students, and listen to him share his thoughts about entering this new stage of your journey.

“If you want to do great things, be faithful in the little things.”—Mike Farris

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How can today’s graduates face the future with vision and passion? Mike Farris examines 17 historic commencement speeches from America’s early years to apply the wisdom of the Founders to the needs of today. Whether you’re a graduating student, homeschooling parent, or leader, be challenged and inspired by the messages of American Commencement. Click to order from the HSLDA Store.

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If you have a homeschooled senior this spring, you have something to be proud of—whether you started homeschooling in preschool or her junior year! This week on Home School Heartbeat, host Mike Farris has a message especially for homeschool graduates and their families.

Mike Farris: If you are finishing high school this year, or if you are the parent of a graduate, you’ve probably noticed that there are two words we use to recognize this event: “graduation” and “commencement.”

These two words capture different aspects of what’s happening on this significant occasion, and I want to look at both “commencement” and “graduation” this week. The verb “graduate” gives us the sense of completion. Merriam-Webster defines it, “to qualify in a particular field” or “to pass from one stage of experience to another.” That’s how we often think of graduation—finishing school. For the student, you’ve completed the work you were assigned. For the teacher, you’ve guided your child through the necessary courses for him to be done with this stage of education and life. That’s important, and it’s worth taking time to think about what exactly is being finished or completed when a homeschooled student graduates from high school.

But it’s not just graduation. It’s also commencement. To commence means something is to begin. As you graduate, you are also entering, launching out into life in a significant way. If you are a graduating student, you are likely to think a lot about this. You’re filled with the excitement of stepping out into your future. And that, too, requires thought. What’s next? Are you ready? How do you get ready?

I’m looking forward to examining these questions with you this week. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: The two words “graduation” and “commencement” show two important aspects of what happens when a student finishes high school. An end to one major stage, and the beginning of something new.

A few years ago, I used 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 for a baccalaureate message to the Patrick Henry College graduates. It reads, “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

This passage applies just as much to parents and homeschool graduates as it does to professors and college students. Godly parents are the first and best teachers and guides.

So what have they done? They have exhorted their children. This is the idea of drawing someone close to you so that you can give them the wisdom and instruction that can only be given and accepted in a relationship of love and trust. We exhort our children to follow God’s truth wherever it leads them.

Godly parents have also comforted their children. The reason that moms are such good teachers in the homeschooling process is that they always love their students. Comfort can only be given out of a heart of love.

Next time, we’ll talk about the third task of a parent—charging their child for the future, as they commence the next stage of life. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 talks about the three aspects of Paul’s ministry to the believers in the Thessalonian church. Paul compares his work to what godly parents do for their children: exhorting, comforting, and charging them to walk worthy of God, who has called them to his kingdom and glory.

As your children graduate, parents, you have completed something truly significant. You have spent much time exhorting and comforting. But commencement is also the beginning of something new. You must give your students a charge for the future. How do they walk worthy of God? John Witherspoon gave some principles in his speech to the 1787 graduates of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University.

Christians are called to both humility and to greatness. Walking worthy of that call to God’s kingdom is a call to greatness. Witherspoon instructed his students, “The object of our desires must be just as well as great . . . Our desires ought to be governed by wisdom and prudence, as well as justice.” To achieve significant things, we must also persevere. And finally, Witherspoon says, those who aspire to greatness must “encounter dangers with resolution.”

Parents, charge your graduate to do what is right, even in dangerous times. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Today, I want to share a story that I have often told at graduations. This is my best advice for success and a life of true significance.

When I entered law school, I had been well prepared to argue for a conservative, original understanding of the Constitution and to be confident and unashamed about my position. But one Sunday, I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit. It went like this: So everybody in this law school knows you are a constitutional conservative. When are you going to tell anyone that you are a Christian?

I was really convicted, and the next day, I took a sheet from my legal pad and wrote on it: Anyone interested in starting a law student’s Bible study, call Mike Farris, and gave my phone number. That was it. I didn’t stand on a street corner and preach. I just posted a sign for a Bible study.

The word quickly circulated that this “Farris guy” was some kind of born-again Christian.

Sometime later, I called a local attorney named Ray Eberle to ask him to come speak at our Bible study. I had heard that he was a Christian and thought he would be an encouragement to the law students.

He accepted saying, “I have heard about your Bible study. Sure, I will speak. Would you like a job?” I said yes.

That was my entire job interview, word for word.

Next time, I’ll tell you where that single sheet of legal paper led me. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Last time, I related how, as a young law student, the Holy Spirit had convicted me that while everybody knew I was a constitutional conservative, nobody knew I was a Christian. So I posted a sign announcing a Bible study for law students. That led to my first job, with a local attorney who had heard about the Bible study somehow.

While I was working for that attorney, I learned that the Spokane Opera House was applying for a liquor license. Right next to a children’s play area. So I started Citizens Opposed to Opera House Liquor—abbreviated COOL. This group actually consisted of me and a woman in her 80s. But we succeeded in our campaign.

As a result, I was invited to become involved with a statewide pro-family conservative organization. And that led me to a wider circle of friends involved in political and legal issues. Eventually, I was offered a job with the newly formed Concerned Women for America, founded by Beverly LaHaye. Through Beverly and Tim LaHaye, I met Dr. Raymond Moore, who convinced me to start homeschooling my children. And after that, I started HSLDA.

Here is the key. I can draw a straight line from all of these significant activities back to that yellow piece of paper announcing a Bible study for law students.

God said to one of His servants, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

Graduates, if you want to do great things, be faithful in the little things. I’m Mike Farris.

Michael P. Farris

Michael Farris is the chancellor of Patrick Henry College and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He was the founding president of each organization.

Farris is a constitutional appellate litigator who has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of 13 states.

He has been a leader on Capitol Hill for over 30 years and is widely known for his leadership on homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty.

At Patrick Henry College, Farris teaches constitutional law, public international law, and coaches PHC’s Moot Court team which has won six national championships.

A prolific author, Farris has been recognized with a number of awards including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.

Mike and Vickie Farris have 10 children and 14 grandchildren.

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