This morning I had the privilege of delivering the Moment of Reflection at the beginning of the Graduation Ceremony – and it was a joy to see one or two folks I know walking across the stage to receive their degrees. The text is printed below.
Good morning! I expect some of you will know the old joke about two behavioural psychologists who met on the street one day: one said to the other, ‘You feel fine, how do I feel?’ I have no training in psychology, but looking at you today in your graduation robes, I’d say that you look and feel more than fine, and so you should. I congratulate you on your achievements and am sure that your family and friends will be justly proud of you.
A month ago, my wife and I spent a week with the Christian monastic community in Taizé, France. There were around 1500 people present, the vast majority of whom were under 30. All of us came with our questions about life. We made new friends from a variety of countries. One of them, an elderly Dutchman, said to my wife in his heavily accented English, ‘I think your husband looks like a famous film star. His first name is Dustin.’ Personally, I don’t see the resemblance, and I don’t know what he was so chirpy about, because we all agreed that he looked like an aging Sean Connery!
In the moments of silence and times of reflection at Taizé, I not only realised that I am not Dustin Hoffman, but also that I am not the person I was when I first graduated in 1979, or even of ten years ago. I have grown and changed, and my understanding of my vocation has also evolved in that time.
As you look back on the years of study leading to this day, you came to Edinburgh to explore your chosen subject. That exploration has also involved finding out more about yourself and what you want to do with your life – finding your vocation. You are not the same person who started off on that journey of exploration, and you will continue to change and grow.
In the coming years, I encourage you to take time out for reflection on the questions, ‘Who am I now? What is my vocation now?’ Don’t ask them every five minutes, but make the opportunity to listen to your heart and your dreams. As you seek the answers for that point in your life, I hope that you will learn more about yourself and your vocation. I also hope that in finding these answers you will be better able to make your contribution to the common good of humanity and experience a sense of fulfilment in doing so. I wish everything good for you for the years to come.