June 11, 2012

Graduation a Time To Celebrate Achievement, Good Character

J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

J. Michael Smith is president of HSLDA. He has been an advocate for homeschooling for more than 30 years. Read more >>

One of the most exciting things that I get to do around this time of year is to address homeschoolers at their graduation ceremonies. Homeschool graduations are obviously unique as they are a gathering of students from different schools (each student’s homeschool), coming together to celebrate what they have in common in one ceremony.

A few other unique features are:

  • Some graduates choose to perform a talent demonstration;
  • Parents actually present the diploma;
  • Prayer and recognition of God is not only allowed, but encouraged; and
  • All the graduates are valedictorian of their class.

I recently addressed graduates in northern Virginia. Prior to actually addressing the graduates, I thanked the parents—primarily the moms—for their sacrifice in teaching their children at home. These moms are especially to be congratulated because they taught their children through high school. Far too many homeschooling parents don’t think they have the ability to teach through high school, when actually, high school may be the most important years for homeschooled students. At this ceremony, we recognized the moms with a standing ovation. They truly are America’s greatest heroes.

As I addressed these graduates, who were all from Christian homes, I challenged them to set goals—and to set two goals in particular. The first is to be sure that when their time is done on this earth, they will go to heaven. The second goal is to make a difference for God by living the abundant Christian life. In other words, be a good soldier in advancing the Kingdom of God.

Two types of faith are required in order to accomplish these two goals. The first is saving faith. We must trust in Jesus Christ to save us from our sin and transform us into new people. The second kind of faith is living faith. In Hebrews 11:6 we read, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (NKJV).

Two young men in the Bible who exhibited this kind of living faith were David and Joseph. David is an inspiration to all of us, but especially to young people, because he delivered the Jews from the Philistines while he was merely a shepherd boy. Graduates should not allow their youth to hold them back; after all, we have been called and empowered by God to do the impossible. Young people can do much, much more than we adults give them credit for. We should not begrudge small beginnings. Only by being faithful in the small things will we be given greater things to do.

Joseph is an example of perseverance and forgiveness. Despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, being lied about by a scorned woman, and ending up in prison, he ultimately rose to be the most powerful man in Egypt, the most powerful country of his time. Joseph simply would not be deterred by what appeared to be repeated injustices. His faithful service to his masters and the opportunities God gave him to interpret dreams brought Joseph out of slavery and to a top position of power. Once there, he could have been bitter and gotten even, but he didn’t. He forgave and moved on.

David and Joseph, especially as young men, are outstanding examples of how to live.

I closed my talk by giving the graduates four practical traits of successful people:

  • Always say please and thank you to everyone;
  • Always be on time;
  • Always keep your promises; and
  • Always finish what you start, unless it would be wrong to do it.

The reason these four things are tied to success is because in doing them, we are humbly serving others and developing consistent good character. So the bottom line for success in living is to love God and to serve our fellow man. If we do that, we know that all things will work out for good.