By Dr. Gerald Janauer
Academic Dean, The Family Foundation School
Graduates, program graduates, ladies and gentlemen, families and friends – it is again time for us to send a group of young people off on their next adventure. These students came to our school not only for an academic education, but for much more. To make it onto this stage these young adults weathered many trials both prior to their arrival and during their stay.
Each of our students has their own story to tell. You heard six of our students speak at Baccalaureate last night, and today you will hear nine more. These are stories of fifteen remarkable journeys often marked by deep despair but also by hard work, a firm faith, and now recovery.
All fifteen of these young people have progressed in their academics, twelve of them have completed high school today, two are ready to transition to day schools with much fewer restrictions, and one will complete his graduation requirements with us over the summer. All fifteen have embraced a more principled life with an emphasis on honesty, unselfishness and love. All fifteen have accomplished more than just about any normal high school graduate at a regular school can lay claim to.
In our students’ stories you will hear them speak of remarkable growth in faith and spirituality. You will hear them speak of stumbling, falling, and asking their higher power for the Grace and strength to pick themselves back up. As Abraham Lincoln once said:
“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.”
Despair drives us to our knees, spirituality and faith restores our hope. Abraham Lincoln was describing a First Step experience long before Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob conceived The AA Program. First Step experiences have made this day possible.
All of these students have learned that restoration of hope and the spirituality that makes faith possible keeps them alive – both in body and in soul. All of these students have experimented with a belief in a higher power, and many have renewed their own personal faith and found a personal connection with God as they understand him. This connection has been the compass needle that has re-directed them each time they found themselves in trouble, each time they did not know where to turn, which path to follow. This connection has guided them to “do the next right thing.”
Now, here they are about to graduate, about to go out into the world. A world that will test their mettle time and time again. A world that will be often unforgiving, often cruel. Yet, these fifteen young people have learned that failing once or twice is not the end, and that there is a set of tools called the 12 Steps that they can fall back on to get themselves back on track.
Yet, grads and program grads, you should always fall back on faith. Ask yourselves what Rod Sirling – Author of “The Twilight Zone” and graduate of Binghamton High School said at a commencement address:
“…are you tough enough to have faith in the things worthy of faith? A belief in your own particular God … an adherence to the tenets of your particular religion … all this with a decent regard and respect for the God and religions of others. Believe without proselytizing. Believe without peddling. Believe without working both sides of the street, trying to sell to others that which is uniquely your own. But most major here—simply believe. There’s no alternative to faith … and God help us, there’s no salvation without it.”
So, as you go forward and leave the halls of the Family School, please remember that salvation in this life depends on the Grace of God, and without his Grace we cannot love, live, or be happy. If you have learned one thing at our school, I hope it is this.