Thursday, January 04, 2018

A Grandfather's Advice

By Obie Oakley

My youngest grandson just graduated from the University of Colorado. Taking a
gap year after high school and a semester off the teach English in Honduras, it took him
5 ½ years to finish with a double major; math and bio-chemistry. Stephen didn’t get to
savor a formal graduation complete with all the pomp and circumstances that go along
with commencements since he finished courses in December.
His mother Wendy set about to provide him that experience, all unbeknownst to
Stephen. Since she is the Parrish Administrator for Christ Church, she had no problem
reserving the Great Hall on Thursday afternoon. She asked me to deliver the
commencement address, daughter Cindy to present a special award. She prepared a
printed program, complete with the U of C Buffalo logo. As the emcee, Wendy led the
processional to the music of Elgar, (Pomp and Circumstances). We then gave the pledge
of allegiance and National Anthem. The participants wore robes, including Stephen. It
was then time for my words of wisdom. Here’s what I imparted to the audience of about
20 friends and family, but mainly to Stephen. All this is rather “hokey” I know but there
is a message here.

A Grandfather’s Advice to his Grandson

Good afternoon. I consider this a distinct honor. We are here to celebrate a long-
awaited graduation, one’s that been five and a half years in the making.
For those of you in the audience, I will tell you now that this will be like no other
commencement address you have ever heard. I will also guarantee you that, unlike others,
you will remember this one. Thinking back at graduations I’ve attended, there’s only one I
remember and I’ll get to that in a moment. I heard Charles Karualt give Wendy’s at UNC,
Jack Kemp, NFL quarterback and congressman at Wake Forest. Couldn’t tell you what they
said to save my life. I cannot even tell you who spoke at my high school or college

As for the one I do remember, it was when I graduated from the US Army
paratrooper school at Ft. Benning. We had just completed four very demanding weeks
which culminated with five qualifying jumps. Our class was very small, only 36 as opposed
to 600 or 700 in other classes. The decision was to conduct the ceremony right there on the
drop zone. This meant no bands, crowds in the bleachers or dignitaries, just the 36 of us
and a handful of sergeants and our speaker who was a full colonel. That was OK; I had
completed the program and was busting buttons with pride in what I had done. He never
once congratulated us, gave us any words of wisdom or inspiration but proceeded to tell us
we had really done NOTHING. After those deflating words, I didn’t hear anything he said.
Whatever his intentions, he failed miserably.
That said, I shall begin my remarks.

“Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled
over the tracks. Then it broke down. Sounds familiar? It should for its ‘The Little Engine
That Could’.
(I then paraphrased the story about the train breaking down with a load of toys needing to
get over the mountain. The toy clown tried to get help from bigger stronger engines to no
avail. What were they to do? They even asked an old rusty engine who said it ‘Could not,
could not, could not’ It was finally when he asked the little blue switch engine if she could
help in pulling the load up the mountain to the waiting boys and girls.

“You remember? The little engine said, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. And
sure enough, she pulled the train up the mountain to deliver the toys. ‘I thought I could, I
thought I could, I thought I could. The day was saved and there was much joy among the
boys and girls”.

‘Well you might ask, what’s the point, are there any life lessons in this funny little
children’s book? You bet there are!
Stephen, consider these:

 Make your goals in life things that benefit others.

 Never lose sight of those goals. There will be temptations to sidetrack you.

 Be persistent: Don’t give up. Never give up.

 Be prepared for the unexpected. That first train stopped. There will always be the
unexpected, so prepare yourself to deal with them.

 Be like the toy clown. Pick up that banner and take the leadership role.

 Be prepared for rejection. The world is full of rude and arrogant people just like
those two engines who shrugged him off.

 Be compassionate and understanding of others. That old train wanted to help but
just couldn’t. You will encounter others in life like that old train.

 Believe in yourself! I think I can. I think I can.

 Celebrate your victories in life. I thought I could. I thought I could. However, as
you celebrate, maintain your dignity and humility.

Stephen Cahill Mauney, you have cause for celebration for your accomplishments. You are
surrounded by your friends and family who will be the most important part of your life and
will be there for you should you need them. Never forget this.