Great Things Await You!
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 14, 2012
Elaine S. Dalton
Young Women General President
To President Wheelwright and to the graduating class of BYU-Hawaii, your parents and families, and to your professors and associates, may I say that it is a privilege to be here to honor your accomplishments today with a few words of advice and counsel upon your commencement from this university. You may look before you to a bright, clear future. You are living in these days by divine appointment. Your capacity to achieve is reflected today in this moment. And many more such moments lie ahead for you. Indeed, I wish to begin with and emphasize a scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants 45:62. It reads: "For verily I say unto you, that great things await you."
On this day of commencement, I would like to share with each of you some advice my mother and grandfather gave to me. It is advice I have never forgotten and I hope you will remember it as well. I hope it will guide you on your journey through life as it has guided me.
Remember Who You Are!
The first is to realize that great things await you as you remember who you are. Whenever I left our home, my mother's parting words were always, "Remember who you are." Once, I questioned her about what she meant. Her reply was clear and correct. She said, "Remember that you not only represent yourself, but your family, and you represent the Church and the Lord."
Remembering who you are should help you remain optimistic. You must always remember that God knows you and He knows what you have the capacity to achieve. You have been uniquely positioned in time and place to prepare to shape the future: to lead, to lift, and to build. You must never be like the world. You have been uniquely prepared to be unique! You are sons and daughters of God. And because of that knowledge, your response will not be the same as the world's response to any situation. You not only know who you are, but whose you are! That knowledge alone is now, and will continue to be, reflected in all your actions, reactions and associations. C.S. Lewis said it best when he said, "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses. . .There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal" (The Weight of Glory, New York: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co. , 1980, pp. 18-19).
As you remember who you are, you will go forward with faith and with confidence in every footstep.
The second thing I want to share with you is some advice my grandfather gave me a long time ago. It is the secret of all great accomplishments. It is to learn to, and love to, work hard. It is to find satisfaction in going the distance and in completing a task, and to love the labor of it all.
You have worked hard in order to come to this place of commencement and your efforts have been rewarded. Some of you will leave here seeking employment, some already have found a place to contribute, some will return to your home and use your education to lift and lead and build your family and your church and community. And for all, this commencement is only just the beginning.
It will take more than dreams to accomplish your goals. It will take work. A winner of one of the marathons held in my hometown of Salt Lake City was interviewed after his victorious run about his marathon training plans and his secrets of success. His name was Araya Haregot from Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, the average annual wage is $400.00 (U.S. dollars), so $25,000 in prize money is astounding. It is literally 50 years of income for one man. These Ethiopian runners run for more than themselves and personal glory. They run for their family and for their village. That is what motivates them to sacrifice and even suffer: their desire to help others. They run with such heart. This is what Araya Haregot said of his win: "I should have run a 2: 10 marathon." The interviewer said: "But you won!" His reply was that winning is within self. It requires self-discipline and achieving personal victories and personal goals. When asked the secret to his success and the success of the other African runners that day, he simply said four words. "Hard work. Hard work." His personal motto was "Hard training: easy marathon" (Unpublished news reporter's interview with Araya Haregot on April 23, 2005). The hills were not eliminated and neither was the opposition, but he knew that one can be in shape to navigate them. He knew what you know. You can "press forward with a . . . perfect brightness of hope" (2 Nephi 31: 20).
Train For Adversity
The third bit of advice is also simple: Train for adversity and remember the little victories. What do I mean by that? Let me share with youwhat a six-time triathlon winner said of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. "It is not the distance that overwhelms people who race Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon. It's the relentless wind that blows across the lava fields. You're on one of the highest ridges, you see miles of repetitive road to Kona, and you realize it's extremely hot and you're going straight into a 30-mile-an-hour crosswind. I've found that those who dwell on these conditions tend to fold. I always train for adversity. I consider adversity an asset, something to turn around to my advantage. One of life's most important lessons is learning to put your losses in perspective and to savor your triumphs by riding on euphoria's wave. Have high goals and expectations; regard defeats as stages on the road to success by remembering the little victories that have gotten you where you are" (Dave Scott, http: //bcihp.ca/coachescorner.html). And in the famous words of Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up" (Winston Churchill, "Never Give In," Harrow School, October 29, 1941).
And fourth: Dream big! "One of life's most important lessons is learning to put your losses in perspective and to savor your triumphs by riding on euphoria's wave. Have high goals and expectations; regard defeats as stages on the road to success by remembering the little victories that have gotten you where you are" (Dave Scott, http: //bcihp.ca/coachescorner.html). Don't lose sight of your dreams and when you dream: dream BIG. It has been well said by architect Daniel Burnham, of Chicago, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big" (Burnham, Daniel, http: //www.ontko.com/pub/rayo/burnham.html). And remember attitude is everything. So, keep a positive outlook. Look for the silver lining. Don't get discouraged. Don't focus all your energy on negative situations, or people, for that matter. Keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. To paraphrase the words to one of my favorite songs: Smile wide, walk with pride, and when you dream, dream big. Because when you dream it might come true. When you laugh, laugh out loud, and remember to see the beauty all around you and in yourself. When you pray, pray for strength to carry on in the midst of trials that will come your way. And when you dream, dream big! ("Dream Big," Ryan Shupe and The RubberBand).
Winners Do Not Always Finish First
Last: remember that winners do not always finish first. This may seem to contradict everything you have learned and prepared to do. In our society we are taught from childhood that winners always come out on top. They make the most money and the win they medals and they receive the recognition. We are taught that life is a competition and that everyone who is competing with you is a threat to your success. We are also taught that there is only one winner. The rest take second place (Music and the Spoken Word, "Winners Do Not Always Finish First," February 19, 2012). Now in light of what I have just said, let me tell you of a group of youth who trained for and entered the Special Olympics. It occurred at the Seattle, Washington Special Olympics a few years ago. The story was told of "nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the hundred-yard dash.
"At the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish for running the race to the finish and winning. All, that is, except one little boy, who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry."The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back . . . every one of them.
"One girl with Down's syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, 'This will make it better.' Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes. People who were there are still telling the story.
"Why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course. . . . We achieve happiness when we seek the happiness and well-being of others" (Kirk Douglas, My Stroke of Luck, (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 162-63).
In paraphrasing Barbara Bush she said what happens in the White House isn't near as important as what happens in your house (http: //gos.sbc.edu/b/bush.html, emphasis added). My mother's advice to me has now become my advice to you and so I repeat once more: "Remember who you are!" You are not ordinary. You are extraordinary and you have been reserved to be here on the earth when the challenges and the opportunities are the greatest. My grandfather tells the story of a famous actor of his time, Edwin Booth, who was once asked why he could give such splendid renditions of dramatic selections before an audience. He said it was because he always envisioned a king in the audience.
Today, I see kings and queens in the audience of this commencement gathering. You will be blessed by the King of Kings as you remember who you are and live what you know, as you continue to work hard and train for adversity, as you never give up, as you dream big, and as you remember that winners do not always finish first.
Now, run into your marathon of faith and life. Don't get discouraged by the hills, but see the opportunity in adversity. Go with a sure foot and a sure knowledge that you are never alone. As I have said on many occasions, I will repeat here today, "I truly believe that one virtuous young man or young woman led by the spirit can change the world." I do and you will! Great things await you! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.