Contagious Enthusiasm

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

During their Commencement Exercise Thursday night, the members of the Pike Liberal Arts School Class of 2009 were given what will surely be the most important graduation gift they will receive – the keys to a victorious life.

The keys were presented to them during Dr. George Mathison’s graduation address but the safe keeping of those keys will be up to each senior as he or she begins a new chapter in life.

Mathison, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Auburn, told the graduating seniors that there are four keys to a victorious life – an enthusiasm that is contagious, an attitude that is positive, a compassion that is genuine and a faith that is real.

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He challenged the graduating seniors to be excited about life and to have a passion for living.

“That enthusiasm will spill over and affect the lives of others,” Mathison said. “A positive attitude is important. Our life is what our thoughts make us. John Milton said that the mind is its own place. It can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”

As an example, Mathison compared the last words of Napoleon, ‘I have never known six days of happiness’ to those of Helen Keller, ‘I never knew life could be so beautiful’ and challenged the graduating seniors to think uplifting thoughts and always keep God first in their lives.

“Compassion that is genuine has a sweetness of heart and a tenderness of spirit,” Mathison said. “As you go forward into life, you will cross paths every day with people who are hurting. Take a compassionate spirit into the world. Caring is the most important thing. It is ultimately what matters.

“And the most important thing is having a faith that is real. The storm is coming. Build your life on a solid foundation so that you will be able to weather any storm. Open your mind and heart and receive these four keys and you will have a victorious life.”

John Thomas Coston, class salutatorian, told his classmates that success and happiness are not measured in money or fine cars but by what one gives to others.

“Find what you love to do and be the best you can at doing it,” Coston said. “If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life. Always put God first in all the choices you make and that will take you in the right direction.”

In the valedictory address, Mallory May called graduation a special moment that marks the end of infancy and childhood and opens the door to the future. May quoted from Robert Frost’s “Birches.”

“‘So was I once myself a swinger of birches; And so I dream of going back to be,’” she said. “We will leave here tonight emotionally connected and will begin to look back on these as the good old days. But we must look to the future with hope because soon that future will become the past. As we keep an eye on the rearview mirror, we must continue to look ahead and say ‘hello’ to a great world of fantastic opportunities and meet the challenges at the crossroads.”

Ceil Sikes, PLAS, headmaster, and Mark Calk, chair of the PLAS board of trustees, presented diplomas to the 33 graduating seniors who stood both smiling and crying beneath a banner that read: Don’t tell me the sky is the limit. There are footprints on the moon.