A Debt of Service
Commencement Address Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
June 6, 2009
Brothers and sisters, Aloha! Leading up to this talk, two questions were asked to me quite often. One was, “Are you nervous?” and the second question was, “Are you going to inspire us?” To the first question, the answer is, “Definitely,” and the second one is, “We’ll have to wait and see. I certainly hope so.
First of all, I would like to thank all who blessed me with this opportunity to speak before you this day. While too numerous to mention individually, on behalf of the graduating students, I want to say thank you to all faculty, administrators, service missionaries, parents, friends, and family who have sacrificed and labored diligently to bless each of us graduates with an education in both spiritual and secular pursuits. We are greatly indebted to all who have given selfless service to each of us. On a personal note, I want to thank my dear friend Sung-won, who is not able to be here today.
There is a sign each one of has passed at least once in our lives. But many of us have passed this very sign dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Before we took a single test,before we listened to a single lecture, and before we ate our first meal at the café, we read the words, “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” I propose to you that this message is not a mere cliché to be forgotten the moment it’s out of sight. Rather, it is an imperative responsibility we all assumed as we began our studies at BYU–Hawaii.
For each one who graduates, there are several others who are standing in line, waiting for their opportunity to study at BYU–Hawaii. For each one of us, the Church has spent thousands of dollars per year subsidizing our education. Have you ever asked yourself why? Why were you given this opportunity when so many others were not? Maybe an even more important question is what will you do with your choice opportunity after you graduate? President McKay helped answer that question when he said, “The world needs men [and women] who cannot be bought or sold, men [and women] who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce. More that that, they’ll be leaders. Not leaders only in the islands, but everywhere. All the world is hungering for them and, best of all, the world is recognizing them.”
President McKay also said, “From this school . . . will go [forth] men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.” The world and its values are declining at an accelerating rate. Satan is waging war for the hearts of mankind. We are part of the prophesied solution to the world’s problems. We may see ourselves in a lesser light, but it is essential for us to recognize our potential. Not only must we recognize our potential, but we must also recognize, brothers and sisters, we are in debt. We are in debt to all of those who have sacrificed to raise us into the people we are today. We are in debt to all of the donors, sponsors, and tithing payers who have sacrificed financially on our behalf. But most importantly, we are in debt to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for blessing us with the gospel and an opportunity to serve in His kingdom. Just as the Lord has served each of us, we too must serve Him. How do we do so?
In the Book of Mormon we read in Mosiah 2:17–18:
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
“Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?”
I know there are individuals within the sound of my voice who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nevertheless, we are all part of the human family. Our responsibility to serve others is not bound by religious affiliation, but by the knowledge that we all share a place on this earth. We are all in the struggle to bring peace to our fellow brothers and sisters. All of us are our brother’s keeper. Just like any family, we have eternal familial duties. Our education at BYU–Hawaii will enable us to fulfill these familial duties in a more proficient and effective manner.
Some of us may amass large amounts of wealth. Some of us may become political leaders. Others may obtain fame and prominence in their respective countries, while others may lead lives of relative anonymity. No matter how each of our futures unfold, always remember your beginnings. Always remember why you were given this wonderful opportunity of gaining your education at this institution of eternal learning. The world needs the training we have received. The world needs us to help fulfill the prophecy so eloquently stated by President McKay, to be genuine gold. The Lord has great trust in you doing so. We must not let Him down. May the Lord bless you in all your righteous endeavors and may we all continue to serve our fellow brothers and sisters and add to the name of this fine institution.
In closing I want to share a brief testimony with you that I know that our Heavenly Father lives and that all of our opportunities here were given as a great blessing when so many others were not given that chance. I testify that the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, lives and that He will give us the guidance and help we need as we go and move on from this institution. I know the gospel is true and that as we live our lives in accordance with its tenets that we will be blessed, both us and our families, both on this earth and for all time and eternity. And these things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.