Graduation 2013 Feature Address

Last Updated: Thursday, 04 July 2013 Published: Thursday, 04 July 2013 Written by Lolita Raffoul

CLASS OF 2012-2013



Graduates, I thank God that you have succeeded in attaining the requirements for you to proudly stand before us. Today, we recognize your efforts and encourage you to realize that you have tremendous potential for a life full of positive outputs for yourself and your community. Congratulations!

My message and congratulatory wish for you is to encourage you to believe in yourself with confidence in the Lord, so that you will individually rise beyond your expectations in your personal and professional life, and importantly, enhance your spiritual walk as you move past the gates of the Convent High School. Interestingly, my wish for you is centered on what I have learned and is rooted in your school's motto Labor Omnia Vincit, meaning 'Effort Conquers All', as well as your graduation theme: Moving On, Letting Go, Holding On to Tomorrow.

Along my journey, I have acknowledged and used invaluable lessons from the Catholic faith, my daily experience and my observations of my family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. I use each lesson to propel my life's purpose on Earth. As such, I wish to share some of what I have learned to shed some light for your continued journey. This is what I know.

From my perspective, there are two aspects of your life: professional and personal; both of which are developed based your spiritual partnership with God. Throughout each day, fundamental components form part of life and they often present challenges. These include: Faith; Love; Society; Work; Play; Diet; Money; Education and the Enemy.

How you deal with each aspect daily will determine your quality of life. If you are truly happy; then it means you have mastered each one. Keep in mind that happiness has to do with where you are now; not where you are going. Most times, we are not happy because we are waiting to reach a certain point. Hence, we can be happy when we are not yet where we would like to be. Therefore Graduates, it is how you train your mind and your approach to life that will determine your joy. In that regard, your attitude is a very powerful tool.   

To Move On, you have to believe in yourself.
To Let Go, you have to value yourself.
To Hold On to Tomorrow, you have discover your potential.  

They are all connected! More specifically, to believe in yourself, you must value yourself. To value yourself, you must be who God created you to be. To know the path you have to follow, you must understand that each day has personal lessons for you to grow. But your mindset alone is not sufficient. You have to pray and act, and learn that your life is your responsibility. No form of education or experience or discussion will make you progress if you do not take ownership of your deeds.

With regards to faith, I believe that without God, an empty life exists; but with God, fulfilment lives within you to reach capabilities beyond your expectations. I also know that I cannot expect God to act on my behalf if I just sit around and do not act. In life, you have to take risks sometimes and just trust God.

In Matthew Chapter 19 verse 26 reads that with God, all things are possible. Hence, I am always baffled why people often say that a specific activity cannot happen, when indeed it can. The problem I believe is that one is not willing to take the risk to do it. With that said, we are in essence therefore not trusting God that if we do fail, there is a lesson to be learned. But moreso, we are not giving God the chance to prove that He supersedes any circumstance. On two occasions in my professional life, I have done what no one else wanted to do, because it was impossible to get it done within the time frame required with limited resources. On both occasions, I believed that God would get me through it and they were successful. But they both came with tremendous personal sacrifices and hard work. Taking the first step into the unknown is hard; but the rest is easy. Graduates, I am telling you this to let you know that what you believe is what you will attain.

Lessons on what to do for each aspect to guide your life is found in the Bible. Read it! Pray with specific requests and always keep thanking God. When you ask for something, do ensure that it serves His will. When you do wrong, ask for forgiveness and God will forgive you; but you have to forgive yourself as well as others.

I have actually learned to thank Him during times of trials, because it was during that time I discovered my strength and realized new paths to create a better life for myself. Graduates, this is part of personal growth; so do not be afraid of it. In addition, what has helped to keep me on track is that I fear God, because what goes around indeed comes around. Just have faith.

I will share a personal example of what faith in God can do. Since I was a little girl, I have always had back pain which got progressively worse. Many people knew that and when I said I was not well, it was assumed that my back was the problem, when at times it was a common cold. I almost ended up in a wheel chair at one point. For about two years, I took off-the-counter pain killers every day and was still in pain. Despite all that, I had been telling myself for years that I will overcome this pain if it is God's will. With that persistent mindset, God opened doors for therapy and other healing that I did not think was available in Dominica. Today, I am free of back pain. So Graduates, what is your issue that you need to overcome? Start reprogramming your mind despite what others tell you and you will discover what God can do.

God is always in control and He knows best irrespective of the circumstance. Learn to trust Him in everything because God is love.

So what is Love?

The Oxford dictionary defines love as a noun to be 'a very strong feeling of affection', 'a great interest and pleasure in something'. The Bible explains in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 that love is being 'patient and kind; not jealous or conceited or proud; not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; not keeping a record of wrongs; not being happy with evil but happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail'. With that said and taking these interpretations at face value, which definition will you choose for you to give love and to receive love?

Now before you respond, just keep in mind that what you give off; you will receive in return. That too is in the Bible! Remember, 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'.

Graduates, to find love with anyone, be it family, friend or a husband, you have to love yourself first if you want the relationship to be fruitful. When you give, give with a heart that wants to do so without expecting anything in return. You will be rewarded in another way and not necessarily from the same person. Love takes work, but in so doing, value yourself, otherwise someone will take advantage of you. I have observed that people who end up in poor relationships are those who are expecting someone else to fill a void in their life. Graduates, learn to love yourself first and respect others.

While I encourage you to put yourself first to progress in life, there are other aspects regarding your interaction with people that you need to know for you to become a better person. As social beings, we naturally ask for people's opinion and guidance, and sometimes we do not look for advice but people will tell you what you should do. Irrespective of how you attain such knowledge, listen, assess the information and make your own decisions.

When dealing with people, pay attention to the following social realities:
Be humble, otherwise you will be humbled;
There is good in everyone, if you want to find it;
If you want change to happen, then you start;
You cannot change people, but you can change how you react to them;
Keep an open mind, people have different perspectives;
Listen to children and learn from them, they have great minds;
People should be treasured in the present;
Negative talk seems constant; be mindful of it;
Why judge people? Judge yourself if you want to succeed;
People with great favour walk a different path.

Graduates, in society, be aware of the energy you give and the energy you allow yourself to receive.

There are numerous avenues you can seek counsel - the Bible, religious leaders, inspirational books, your experience and that of others, your teachers, the Internet, family, friends, institutions and sometimes a stranger. Lessons are all over, we just have to learn to recognize them.

Now regarding your career path, most of your life involves work, so do what you love. Work hard, but smart. Learn to prioritize, be a team player, be creative, be honest and do your best. As young women, dress professionally. Your outlook is important and makes a statement about you.

Work is not only where you earn revenue, but it also includes volunteer work. Find your calling and apply the same principles. Your calling is based on what is close to your heart; not what other people think you should do.  

On another note, I will only say this much about Play time and your Diet: create a balance and be active. It will keep you healthy and vibrant. That's important!  

Now here is a very important subject: Money! Money is a good thing. It helps our economy. It helps us individually. Therefore, I like money, but I do not let money control me. I do not like dealing with numbers, but if I like money, I better learn to love numbers or else I could lose it all; and I actually did  one time.

Now, I believe in doing four things with money: pay myself; give some (especially to things that are true to my heart); save some; and spend some by means of investing. How you manage all of it will determine your financial growth.

Recently, I found out from a bank that most young person's spend the majority of their earnings on clothing and a vehicle. Rarely will one consider any other option like health insurance or an investment such as purchasing property.
Graduates, educate yourself now on how to be financially intelligent, so that you can have a better life from a younger age. Here is the first question to help you start: are you going to work for money or are you going to learn how to make money work for you?

The process of learning is always available, so you have to grab those opportunities. Education is accessible through many channels - formal institutions like the Convent High School, the Internet, television, mobile communication, workshops and training sessions, books, the Bible and daily encounters. Academic education is very important. Keep pursuing it where feasible and get experience.

In your drive to seek knowledge, do not limit yourself. I can still recall the day it dawned on me while conducting research during my Master's Degree that the more I learned, the more I realized that I still had a lot to learn. Of course, there are some professional areas that require specialization and that is fine. I am just saying, learn about something else. No one can take away your education from you. That's what my mother kept telling me for years; and it is true!

If you want to rise to your greatest potential, take responsibility for what you learn and keep learning. Meantime, I am still learning.

Finally, our greatest challenge is fighting the enemy. The enemy will come after your faith, your love, your interaction with society, your work, your play time, your diet, your money and your education. Learn to recognize when the enemy is coming after you and call on God to protect you and guide your action. Importantly, stay in peace during troubled times, because peace is a position of power and it will crush your enemy. When people do you wrong, pray for them. I believe that everyone and every situation that comes into our life, whether active or passive, is meant to teach us something to improve our own life.

If someone criticizes you, consider it as a gift being given to you, by allowing yourself to look within and improve. In some cases, they are trying to feel better about themselves, but in other instances, they are trying to tell you to use your talent for something better. One of the hardest things in life is not to KNOW but to ACCEPT. Hence, take time to question what you do honestly and make the necessary change.

With all of that said, life is actually very simple. We make it complicated at times.

Young ladies, here are my final tips.
1. Dare to be different for good causes.
2. Believe in yourself with absolute confidence in the Lord - never underestimate what you can do.
3. Give yourself some time alone every day.
4. Take care of yourself.
5. Love constantly no matter what.
6. Wise people never stop wanting to learn - so keep learning.
7. The next second is actually your future, so start acting - it's your choice.
8. Relentlessly pursue your dreams; it will not come to you - you have to go after it.
9. Work hard and smart - it has rewards.
10. In dollars and cents, pay yourself, give some, save constantly and spend by investing wisely.
11. Define limits for your life or others will define it for you.
12. People will always have an opinion about you. Their perception is their reality; but Reality is and can only be fact.
13. When a situation is not your battle, stay out of it.
14. Be mindful of the company you keep.
15. Listen to your inner voice - that's where your answers are hidden.
16. Impressions count and people remember how you make them feel.
17. Fear God.  
18. Do not try to understand too much of what God controls; you will worry for nothing.
19. Pray.
20. And above all else, Never give up 'Moving On, Letting Go, Holding On to Tomorrow'!

To The Principal, Deputy Principals and Staff of the Convent High School, you have diligently fulfilled your duty; well done and keep pressing on. I am honoured and delighted to be a part of your celebration. Thank you!

To family, friends and well wishers, provide the necessary support for these fine young ladies and love them.

To my dear Graduates, you are responsible for yourself! Apply these lessons in your daily life and that will be a good start.

Cheers Graduates, enjoy your celebration and go forth with God!

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