Les parapluies de La Rochelle, France. For me, this is my salute to the class of 2020.
Les Parapluies de La Rochelle, October 2019, Photo collection of TalinMan

Last Friday, Ms. Oprah Winfrey gave a salute to the class of 2020 in a commencement speech on Facebook. In her address, Ms. Winfrey exhorted the graduates to step up and be part of “a new and more evolved normal, a world more just, kind, beautiful, tender, luminous, creative & whole.” Effectively, her message was a clarion call to transcend oneself, as may be gleaned from the following excerpt from her speech:

“Every one of us is now being called to graduate, to step toward something, even though we don’t know what. Every one of us is likewise now being called to temper the parts of ourselves that must fall away, to refine who we are, how we define success and what is genuinely meaningful. And you, the real graduates on this day, you will lead us.”

Oprah Winfrey, Commencement Speech in Facebook, May 15, 2020

Learning to be at Peace amidst Adversity

In response to the challenge, Ms. Winfrey underscored the importance of mustering inner strength to enable oneself to decipher the real issues at the root of difficult situations. In her words, “It’s vital that you learn, and we all learn, to be at peace with the discomfort of stepping into the unknown. It’s really OK to not have all the answers. The answers will come for sure, if you can accept not knowing long enough to get still and stay still long enough for new thoughts to take root in your more quiet, deeper, truer self. The noise of the world drowns out the sound of you. You have to get still to listen.”

Deepest Self-care: for the Human Family

Drawing from the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Ms. Winfrey further extolled that: “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. If humanity is a global body, every soul is a cell in that body, and we are being challenged like never before to keep the global body healthy by keeping ourselves healthy in mind and body and spirit. As all the traditions affirm, the deepest self-care is at once caring for the human family. And we see this so clearly with essential workers.” In a word, she spoke of the importance of solidarity.

Heroism of Essential Workers

Citing the commendable service of essential workers i.e. teachers, health care workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers and food providers, she challenged graduates to contemplate how they would use their own passions to benefit those around them.

In concluding her remarks, Ms. Winfrey expressed her aspiration, saying “my hope is that you will harness your education, your creativity and your valor, your voice, your vote — reflecting on all that you’ve witnessed and hungered for, all that you know to be true — and use it to create more equity, more justice and more joy in the world.”

Setting the Tone for the New Normal

Having read such a powerful and inspiring speech by a great person, I too am moved to salute the Class of 2020 graduates. As a corollary to the advise of Ms. Winfrey, I invite the graduates to take a few minutes to read and reflect on Point No. 9 below:

Point No. 9

What you have just said, say it in another tone, without anger, and what you say will have more force . . . and above all, you won’t offend God.

St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way

For me, Point No. 9 above represents one of the simplest yet profound aphorisms of St. Josemaria Escriva. For the graduates, it will work wonders, specially, at this time of community quarantine when elevated levels of stress and anxiety are affecting the whole of humankind. The key is to give respect to the other person through the use of proper tone of voice in communicating with others.

Human Tone Speaks Louder than Words

Simple as it may seem, we know that the human tone speaks louder than words. Depending on the timbre of one’s voice, its effect on the interlocutor speaks volumes resulting in either enmity or affinity. Hence, it is important to always be careful in using the proper tone of voice when one is communicating with a spouse, a child, a boss or even a customer.

Finally, when one is able to acquire the habit of speaking to people with respect using the human tone, one will be surprised to find out that, the definition of true success is measured by the meaningful relationships one has acquired with family, friends and God.

Salute to the class of 2020, bravo et felicitations tout le monde!


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