Brian Underwood: An open letter to area graduates

Dear Graduate,


You did it! And if you didn’t, yet, and you’re nervous about it, I’ll say a prayer for you.

Tis the season, though, when we see diplomas granted for everything from KDs (Kindergarten Degree) or JDs (Juris Doctorate, in law), and everything in between. And regardless of the level completed, the sense of achievement is universal.

But after the cake, ice cream, etc., wears off, a natural question, or series of questions, often set in. What’s next, or What Then?

The latter is actually the title of a poem written by William Butler Yeats, the famed 20th century Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet. It reads to many as the quest for results, success, perfection, which often comes when we finish something and look ahead.

His chosen comrades thought at school

He must grow a famous man;

He thought the same and lived by rule,

All his twenties crammed with toil;

‘What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’

Everything he wrote was read,

After certain years he won

Sufficient money for his need,

Friends that have been friends indeed;

What then?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘ What then?’

All his happier dreams came true –

A small old house, wife, daughter, son,

Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,

Poets and Wits about him drew;

‘What then.?’ sang Plato’s ghost. ‘What then?’

The work is done,’ grown old he thought,

‘According to my boyish plan;

Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,

Something to perfection brought’;

But louder sang that ghost, ‘What then?’

Alternatively, and perhaps healthier, this piece can also represent catharsis, or a release from overly pressurized expectations when taken into perspective.

New seasons in life, such as those commencing, hence the word Commencement, seem to naturally come with expectations, which are a good thing when managed properly.

We all have natural, God-given, gifts and talents that make us the unique people we were created to be. So, graduate, I urge you to quiet the ghost and enjoy what’s about to unfold in your life as you consider where you’ve been and where you’re headed.

Realize you were uniquely created to do great things. If you haven’t yet been affirmed in your gifts and talents, let me be the first to say you have them. And if you need further proof, take a minute and enjoy the free online assessment tool offered by High 5 Test ( which affirms gifts and talents.

In the meantime, here are some tongue-in-cheek pearls of wisdom for you and all the other graduates as you move to the future.

Kindergarten Graduates – The Good News: Nap time is over! The Bad News: Nap time is over.

Middle School Graduates – The Good News: You made it to the top of the mountain at your school. Enjoy it, while it lasts. The Bad News: You’re starting at the bottom in three months.

High School Graduates – The Good News: You’re about to celebrate a seminal moment in life with special friends, some of whom you’ve known your whole lives. The Bad News: You’re getting closer to paying your own cell phone bills, etc.

Community College Graduates & Certificate Earners – The Good News: You’ve persevered to set yourselves up for some amazing experiences. The Bad News: You don’t get enough credit for your accomplishments.

Four-year College-University Graduates – The Good News: Your dreams are that much closer. The Bad News: Most of you have six months to start paying back that debt you collected to reach your dreams.

Graduate School Grads – The Good News: You’ve become a master in your field. The Bad News: It won’t make you the master of your household.

MDs, Ph.D.’s, ED.d., and Other Science and Research Degrees Ending with a “d” – The Good News: People think you’re smart. Bad News: Now you have to keep up that ruse.

JDs – Good News: As Jerry Seinfeld once said, you’re now basically the person who knows the rules of the country. Or, more appropriately, in the game of life, you’ve become the only person that has read the inside of the top of the game box. When people yell “Objection,” you get to either say “overruled,” “’fraid so,” or “sustained,” which is the adult version of Duh. Bad News: Shakespeare followers are looking to kill you and all your kind.

Every mountain top experience, like the one graduation brings, will, unfortunately at some point be followed by some time in the valley. The point is to relish something good in each day, even if it’s a bummer day. Don’t dwell on the bad, but instead realize you were made of special stuff and have the chance to bless someone everyday with your gifts.

That’s an important secret of life, making yourself smaller so someone else can grow taller. And in the end, you’ll be the one who really enjoys the fruit of that.

I just hope the lawyers can bob and weave long enough to avoid the Shakespearean Mob.

Brian Underwood is the director of school development for Sierra Lutheran.


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