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Matt McGee: To my graduate — amid the year's turmoil, these 3 things will help you make your mark

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Congratulations, Eden! I’m extremely proud of the way you’ve navigated the uncharted waters of your final semester in high school.

Each time a new loss or disappointment hit, you expressed the sadness and then responded with a resilience that has inspired me. Thank you for allowing us to be on this journey with you.

You’ve reached one of the great early pinnacles of life — one that affords you the view to even higher peaks that you will want to climb. William Allin said, “Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to answer all the questions.”


You’ve worked diligently and received the gift of an education that millions wish for but do not have available. In gratitude, acknowledge those who have given you this gift. In humility, recognize what your hard work has produced. And out of your love for humanity, do not let your education end here — there are many questions still to answer.

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The “script” for your spring semester senior year has not gone as planned. In fact, you lay claim on the most unexpected senior year of high school in the U.S. since World War II. The dismantling of your hopes and dreams has assuredly produced feelings that range from mild disappointment to devastation.

In light of this, Graduate, everyone expects you to be in “receive” mode, receiving words of consolation, cards and gifts of congratulation, cheers of admiration. All these are fitting. But I want to encourage you to do something unexpected during this season of surprises — here are three ways to flip the script.

1. Become the most grateful person you know.

Genuinely thank, congratulate and celebrate those around you — your family and friends, your acquaintances and beyond. Any time you receive something, from the mundane (breakfast each morning) to the extraordinary (a lavish graduation gift), go out of your way to express gratitude. You will set a tone that brightens the lives of others, a characteristic of great worth.

2. Be a “there you are” person. 

In graduate school, a mentor once asked me, “Will you be a ‘here I am’ person or a ‘there you are’ person?” I’ve thought about that many times since and tried to develop a habit of focusing on others. I hope you will do the same. When you enter a room, direct your attention to those around you and express your enthusiasm in seeing them. It is a practice of humility that will grow your heart.

3. Give the greatest gift of the 21st century — your focused attention. 

Technology distracts. Thinking about your next Instagram post or how many likes your last post received steals your ability to be fully present in the moment. Manage your screens so they don’t manage you. The most important equation you will ever learn is this: L+O+V+E  =  T I M E. As you give others your focused attention, you show them love.

Graduate, whether you choose one to master, or all three, in the next season, doing these things will make a mark.

Living a life of gratitude, humility and love will make family and friends yearn to have you close. It will make professors want you in their classes, and employers desire to have you on their teams.

Flipping the script, by choosing to give more than you receive, will show others the joys of living beyond yourself.