Leaving Safe Harbor
Address to the Class of 2018 at Commencement, May 24, 2018
During my active duty career in the Navy, I had the honor to serve on three different ships: a guided missile cruiser, an amphibious assault ship, and an aircraft carrier. Each was designed and built for a particular mission. Each went through a series of inspections, improvements were made, shakedown cruises tested each ship, and then they were commissioned. Then each ship and the crew were given the responsibility and the duty to carry out the role that it was created for, the defense of the United States of America.
For all three of my shipboard assignments, the ships were homeported at Norfolk Naval Station. It is the largest naval station in the world, having 11 miles of pier space that support about 75 ships. Driving across the base in the direction of the piers, I would be met with the magnificent sight of the many ships, marvels of engineering and design, that were in port at any given time. Each time I drove past those piers I was reminded of a quote that I have had hanging over my desk for many years. It is by the author John A. Shedd. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
Ships are built to leave the safety of ports to go out and serve where they are most needed, as challenging as that might be. To the Jesuit High School Class of 2018, you were not made for the safety of the harbor. Each of you was created by our God to serve Him in a unique way. You were formed for a particular mission given only to you. During your years here at Jesuit, you were instructed, challenged, encouraged, and you experienced tough love. In your own ways, you all went through a series of inspections, improvements, and then shakedown cruises to make sure that you were prepared for your individual missions. Now we send you out into our world.
As exciting as this new adventure appears, there will be challenges on the seas of life. While there is much goodness, it is a broken world, marked by a great deal of sadness. Sometimes you will be a part of that sadness. Outside of your own circle of family and friends, many people won’t care who you are or where you live. You will be reminded on a regular basis that you are not entitled to anything.
So that begs the question, why leave the safety and comfort of your home, your safe harbor? The answer to that question is the good news that I have for you this evening. And that good news is this: because this broken world needs you. We need the gifts and talents that each of you have been graced with to make the world a much better place. And the joy of this evening is that you have already begun to do just that. You have already embraced your call from God to be of service to your brothers and sisters in need.
This class combined has provided over 30,000 hours of service. When hurricanes devastated areas of Houston and Puerto Rico, over 20 of the men on this stage spent a school holiday preparing for the school wide collection of over $9,000, school supplies, and food items for victims.
Nearly 50 of the men seated here collectively labored over 200 hours through the Hams for Fams organization to provide a meal for families who otherwise would have gone without for Christmas.
When middle-school students looking to get ahead academically through the Operation Upgrade Program ended their day, many of these men went the extra mile. They held running sessions after regular program hours and even accompanied the students at multiple races sponsored by the New Orleans Track Club throughout the year.
On this stage is a man who, with a number of friends, brought a program to New Orleans to produce the charity musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown for the residents at six local retirement facilities.
Another man organized a donation drive to the Free Indeed home, a non-profit organization that assists teenage victims of human trafficking.
There is also a special group on stage who recorded and sold the first-ever Christmas CD, a Very Terry Christmas, which raised hundreds of dollars for the poor in the Jesuit mission of Santa Rosa in Paraguay.
This class offered many hours of tutoring at the Good Shepherd School, Esperanza, and through the Academic Support Program at Jesuit. They have met the needs of the hungry by making and distributing food at Ozanam Inn and the New Orleans Mission.
Members of this class brought joy to the physically handicapped at camps for people with muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. Recognizing the sanctity of all human life, they visited the infirmed and elderly and prayed for the protection of the unborn.
They also traveled internationally to Nicaragua and Panama to build multi-purpose sports courts for kids in rural communities.
Gentlemen, your efforts thus far are just the beginning of the goodness that you can bring to those in need. Continue to accept your call from God as you move onto the next chapter of your lives. And do not be afraid if your call takes you far away. Go and embrace the world.
As you look to the future, keep these words of H. Jackson Brown, Jr. in mind: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Congratulations, Class of 2018. I am proud of you and I can’t wait to see your impact as you sail away from safe harbor. May God bless you in your endeavors.