Good morning everyone. Members of the Board of Trustees, President Cureton, distinguished faculty, family, friends, and fellow graduates, thank you for the privilege of speaking to you today. My wife Ann who inspired and supported me so much in my educational journey—thank you and I love you. My children and mom, I love you and thank you as well.
The story I most want to share is that of a young boy in second grade whose teacher told him he was stupid and couldn’t learn. That boy was me. I can almost still hear her saying, “You won’t amount to anything.” I don’t believe she fully understood the power of her words. I believed that lie. In fact, I let her words rule my mind. I began to look for reinforcement of that message—and found it. I had to repeat second grade and I never found success as a student. In fact, I lived over 40 years with that message playing over and over in my mind—certain I was not capable of achieving a college education. But the truth is that God created each of us with purpose and intention. Although I didn’t understand my potential, God began to speak truth to me, first through my amazing wife, Ann, who believed in me and inspired me to try. Fast forward to today, as God spoke through my professors who encouraged me that I was capable, He also spoke to me through classmates and the staff at Northwestern who came alongside me. One small success at a time, God replaced that destructive message. That injured little boy who was deceived so long ago has been set free and the chains of bondage that held him down have been broken and destroyed. Today I stand here as a testimony of God’s miraculous healing.
Being an adult learner is a unique learning situation as it comes with the challenges of balancing careers, families and the rest of life with learning. But let’s also recognize that it comes with great advantages, none of which is greater than each of us. I will remember my days here as being spent with awesome, encouraging, and inspiring classmates! Perseverance and trusting in God has brought us through our programs and now we are here, graduating, and looking towards what is next in our lives.
Professors, we have been very privileged to have been your students. God has used you to help form us and through this I’ve realized that the most important qualification that you each hold is that of being a Christian. You taught us with the love of Christ and this has been, without a doubt, the most powerful reason we succeeded. You have my deepest respect, I thank you and may God bless you.
I see now that God uses the people in our lives to fill us with strength and courage to reach today’s achievement and step into the next great adventure. God is using our experience at Northwestern to continue and complete His good work in us. I see now that God also uses our struggles. In fact, He’s already using my experience of believing that I was “lesser than” to help me understand the experience of orphans who often believe the lie that they too are “lesser than”. Now God is allowing me, in partnership with my wife and an inspiring group of supporters, to open our first home for orphaned and abandoned children in Kenya this summer. We appreciate your prayers!
I see now that God uses even the challenges to help us reach the potential we have in Him. Classmates, I pray that God will release us from here today and bless our futures in a way that brings glory to His name like never before.
Today is the beginning of a new chapter of life. Go and face it with courage, remembering the word of God. Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Remember that with God we have the power to overcome any untruth and change any message from our history for His glory!
Thank you and God bless you.