President/Principal Andrew Kuffner's address to the Class of 2019 during La Salle's commencement on June 8 at Rolling Hills Community Church
I’ll start by recognizing that you have all been sitting quietly listening for quite a while now and I’m the last speaker, meaning that what I have to say stands between you and your diplomas. To that end I will try to make it memorable and most importantly: brief.
Since St. La Salle’s passing 300 years ago, millions of students in more than 80 countries around the world have done exactly what you are doing today: graduating. You’ve successfully completed what was expected of you at La Salle and you have earned the certificate to prove it. No more high school for you, it’s on to college, adulthood, the working world, or marriage and maybe parenthood, or religious life. You have so much to look forward to. We share today in hopeful anticipation of all of the good things you have in front of you.
At moments like graduation, I find myself reflecting on larger life questions, big ideas like what was the purpose of it all? Not to undermine the experience, but to wrap it up into something truly meaningful. To give it a context and a narrative that links it to a mission.
It can't all just be about the late nights: doing homework, coming home from a game or practice, after the show and some treats at Shari’s. It is certainly not simply about the curriculum and learning outcomes. 4 years of English, Math, Science, Religious Studies, History, etc. Was it about the retreats? The immersions and service opportunities? The purpose of all of this has to be much more than the sum of its parts. I would offer that a diploma from La Salle comes with a little bit more than simply a piece of paper.
What you’ve done in the last four years should result in something more than a certification of completion. Our motto, briefly and powerfully, says: “Leave to Serve.” The paper diploma you will receive shortly, representing past good work is frankly, meaningless unless it is also accompanied by future good work. In Psychology, it is often said: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. These past four years you have done more than just complete the coursework. You have explored your faith, you have served the marginalized, you have forged relationships, you have acted as big brothers and big sisters, you have competed and acted and performed and engaged. You have done more than can ever be reflected in a piece of paper.
Your charge is to continue to do more. Please give me a moment to tell you exactly what I think that “more” is.
St. La Salle captured the purpose of Lasallian education in this way: Salvation of Souls. Salvation; yikes. That seems so grand, so important. Yes, salvation is what Catholic education is all about. But De La Salle believed that salvation was not something earned like a prize at the end of your life. He believed that it is something you experience on a daily basis: compassion, faith, healing, connection, comfort, God’s love. Ah yes, that’s it: love.
Lasallian schools, the curriculum, the programs, the focus on relationships, being big brothers and sisters; all of this was specifically designed to foster a sense of giving and receiving: Love. God’s love. And I would say to you, the class of 2019 here before me today; you have been loved! By your parents, by your teachers and the staff, by your classmates and teammates, by the communities you served; you have been loved. This is the beauty and simplicity of Lasallian education: Salvation of souls is just another way of saying “Love your neighbor as yourself”. And who is your neighbor? Everyone. Author Steven Covey said: Love is a verb. Love, the feeling, is a fruit of Love, the verb.”
Let’s recap what we have so far: Your diploma means more.
So what is that “more” your diploma represents? What is that which you need to do in order to truly animate the purpose of your Lasallian education?: Love. You need to go out there, to college or wherever you go and love. Really Love. This is what you have been given and so this is what you must also do. Love. This is the purpose of Lasallian education and so in order to call yourself a graduate of La Salle, this is what you must share: love.
So how do you do this? Well, you’re not alone. You have said maybe a thousand times by now: Forever! When responding to the prompt: Live, Jesus in our hearts, what do you say?: Forever. Yep. You got it. And just for a moment, consider that just maybe you will have Jesus live in your heart forever. Jesus is in your heart, I believe, but in order for him to live, he has to have a job to do. He is there to love you, yes, but he is also there to work through you, to live through you to show love for others.
I believe that when Jesus truly lives in your heart, you can't help but love. You can't help but be open to all of the goodness in this world and reflect that goodness to others. If you accept my assertion that the “more” you need to do is Love, then I hope you also accept the idea that this love is in you and it is named Jesus.
So there you have it, my message to you:
Congratulations on this graduation day. But know this: a La Salle diploma represents much more: it represents a higher purpose of salvation of souls, of loving your neighbor as yourself and ultimately and most powerfully: it represents Jesus in your heart, sharing God’s love with you and those around you. That is the “more” that matters. That is the purpose of this work, and that is what I hope and pray you remember long past this moment.
Thank you for four great years, and may Jesus live in your hearts: forever!