Dare Greatly or (My Graduation Address)

24231782_10213663319711605_8503336497989609606_nI had the amazing privilege of getting to address my graduating cohort and the audience today at graduation as our student representative speaker. This was my address:


Good afternoon, everyone.


My Bachelor’s degree is in Preaching and Church Leadership, so I promise to try to have us all out of here no later than supper time.


On behalf of the 2017 graduating cohort, I want to thank you all for being here this afternoon to celebrate with us in this milestone in our academic journeys. When someone chooses to earn a graduate degree, it is never just about that one person. To borrow a concept from our counseling studies, someone earning a graduate degree impacts the entire family system. Those of you in our families have been patient with our weekend class schedules, constant homework demands, and time-consuming internships. We are here today, in part, due to your hard work to pick up our slack, work with our schedules, be patient with our educational journeys, and support us through the entirety of our graduate program. We are grateful for the sacrifices you’ve made along with us through this journey.


To begin, I want to tell a story. A story about a young boy who was born in a small village in Japan in 1906. The boy’s father was a local blacksmith who owned and operated a bicycle repair shop. Growing up in such an environment naturally leads a young child’s curiosity to help his father in the bike repair shop wherein the components of the bikes become one’s favorite toys. Working in his father’s shop, the young boy became highly intrigued by how machines work and function.


Without any formal education, this young boy left home at the age of 15 in search of work in the city of Tokyo. By day, he assisted in a garage, but by night he worked in another workshop where cars were being designed. After a few years, he returns home at the age of 22 to start his own auto repair shop.


Soon after, he poured all his energy and resources into making piston rings for small engines; he even went as far as selling his wife’s jewelry to help fund the project. After years of hard labor, he finally perfected his design, and he took it to Toyota, who rejected his design saying it was not good enough. After two more years of hard work, he started his own production company making piston rings for Toyota.


However, it wasn’t too long before the horrors of WWII came upon his country and his company was destroyed. He was forced to sell at that was left to Toyota. With the war leaving Japan’s resources in a state of scarcity, he didn’t have money to afford gas for his car and to feed his family at the same time. His solution? He took one of his small engines and attached it to a bicycle essentially creating the first motorized bicycle.


Wanting to start his own corporation to make these bikes, but having no funds to do so, he turned to bicycle owners in Japan for support. He was able to gain 3,000 people to support him by writing to 18,000 people asking for help. At first, he was not very successful, but in time created the perfect motorbike which he called “The Cub.”


Success had finally come to this young man, and in 1948 he started his own company called “Honda Motor Company.” Soichiro Honda never relinquished his dreams, and by determination created one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world today.


What was it that led to Mr. Honda’s success? What enabled him to get up repeatedly after getting knocked down by life so many times? I think the answer to lies in a quote often called “The Man in the Arena” from President Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt says,


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


I believe it was the power of daring greatly in the face of failure and during failure that led Mr. Honda to keep getting back up after being knocked down in the arena time and time again.


He lived his life and pursued his dreams from a position of always daring greatly! How are some ways in which we as counselors can dare greatly? The following are some of the ways in which I see us as daring greatly and some are ways that other counselors shared with me:


We dare greatly as counselors when we stand up for our personal ethics and the ethics of our profession without wavering.


We dare greatly as counselors when we do what’s best for our clients even if it isn’t the most profitable or popular opinion.


We dare greatly as counselors when we help our clients discover the answers that lie within them and getting to enjoy discovering those answers along with them.


We dare greatly as counselors when we take a leap of faith and jump out of our comfort zones.


We dare greatly as counselors when we to show up and allow our authentic selves to be seen.


We dare greatly as counselors when we live our lives from a place of vulnerability and humility, acknowledging our own humanity and the messiness that lies within us all.


We dare greatly as counselors when we use our position of advocacy to speak truth to power, to advocate for the poor, to condemn societal injustices like a racist and unfair justice system that targets blacks and browns.


We dare greatly as counselors when we use our privilege in society to give voices to those who are marginalized, downtrodden, forgotten, abused, and disenfranchised.


We dare greatly as counselors when we become allies with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in their striving to share the same rights we have and be treated with dignity and respect.


We dare greatly as counselors when we seek first to empathize with our clients and refrain from a place of judgment.


We dare greatly as counselors when we do the good and holy work of substance abuse counseling and stand up to the substance abuse crisis that plagues our communities.


We dare greatly as counselors when we strive to be the best at what we do with passion and love for the work and people we serve.

We dare greatly as counselors when we remember to take care of ourselves and practice what we preach.


The ways we can dare greatly are numerous, and I’m sure you can think of a multitude of things I didn’t list. Daring greatly takes compassion, courage, strength, resilience, determination, grit, and, above all, vulnerability.  Dr. Brene Browns writes,


Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what daring greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”


I urge you all as fellow counselors and colleagues to show up every day and let yourselves be seen even after you have failed, and you will fail. I will fail. We all will fail. There will be times when we will have our faces down in the dirt of the arena floor, where we feel like we can’t possibly go on any longer. But as Brene also says, “We’re the author of our lives. We write our own daring endings.” As counselors second and humans first, we must rise from the fall and continue to dare greatly by being vulnerable, which enables us to show up, be seen, and live bravely.


Daring greatly, even if we have failed, is the way we must live to accomplish our dreams and be successful as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, counselors, employees, professors, supervisors, and human beings. In a world overrun with fear, terror, scarcity, hurt, trauma, abuse, brokenness, and pain, daring greatly is the only option we have of making an impact on this world for the better. Dare greatly, my friends.

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