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The Places You'll Go

Convocation 2012. Stanford Unviversity
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

There are so many jumping off places in life - that first day of Kindergarten, perhaps a religious commitment or confirmation, maybe just saying "no" when others push "yes"... And there's that BIG one, college. My son has been through the grist mill when it comes to higher education. His first commitment was to a military service academy. He and his plebe buds survived summer military training and advanced through the ranks to become upperclassmen, training hard in military skills, and core science and math academics. He rode for the cycling team, became a respected leader within his company, and majored in Computer and Electrical Engineering. In my son's case, fate intervened shortly after making his junior year formal service commitment: he was released on an honorable, medical discharge. It took awhile for him to sort through the whys and hows, and the sucking vertigo of dislocation he felt personally as well as in his education. Yet he handled it all with dignity and personal quietude, centered in adaptation and faith in life. I was privileged to experience the kind of man my son actually had grown to become: the kind that doesn't quit, even when there is no Plan B.

The following year was one of regathering a sense of purpose, redefining new education and career goals, and finding a way to stay productive and positive while living and working on his own, and waiting, once again, through the agonizing and uncertain process of college applications. This time as a transfer student - with fewer slots and greater odds against him wherever he might apply.

Tuesday, September 18th: Move-in day, Convocation, and the new class of 2016 is officially admitted to Stanford University. As parents and students sat in the golden sun on the old Mission-style quadrangle of Stanford's central campus, President Hennessey spoke about the beauty of beginnings, and the uncertainty that can accompany that first step. He reminded the new freshmen that they should believe in themselves, because the school certainly did. The President, and the Dean of Admissions, also specifically referenced the handful of transfer students scattered throughout the audience. How impressed they were by unique backgrounds of achievement and challenge, and their importance, as members of the Class of 2014 and 2015, to the development of ideas and community throughout the university. The faculty acknowledged the same strength and focus in the new class of admitted transfer students I witnessed take hold in my son: The ability to take that first step into the unknown, and if life or expectations change, retake it yet again.

As often as life requires.

I sat beside my son listening to the closing benediction, more proud of him than I had ever been, and for vastly different reasons than most of those parents beside me. There is pride in watching your children accomplish their dreams the first time, but there is a deeper faith seeing them doing so, because they have to, again. Creating Plan B, dusting yourself off and starting over, is character - built from the guts and muscle of life.

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”

― Dr. Seuss, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
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