As thousands of graduates from the University of Utah's Class of 2007 began the next phase of their lifelong travels, they were provided illuminating "guideposts" from President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. A graduate from the state system's flagship university — Class of 1948 — President Monson offered the address at his alma mater's commencement exercises in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on May 4.
Prior to President Monson's address, the university presented the Church and former business leader with an honorary doctorate of business.
President Monson said both the Utah campus and the world have changed much since he completed his own undergraduate studies. When he graduated, he said, there were no calculators or cell phones, no iPods, computers or web cams. The Internet did not exist. No one exchanged e-mails.
"Television was in its infancy, and most of us had never seen one," he added, drawing laughter from the thousands gathered for the ceremony.
Utah's Class of 2007, on the other hand, is surrounded by the technology and affluence of modern times, he observed.
"You are living in one of the most precious and privileged periods of human history — a period of change and challenge and infinite promise….
"Whatever your pathways may be, I suggest three guideposts to assist in your respective journeys through life. They are easily remembered — true friends to every traveler."
First, glance backward.
"As you look at your life thus far, you will learn from past mistakes, whether they be yours or those of others," he said. "You will recognize also that many people have helped you reach this point in your life. Give thanks to them — your family, your friends, your teachers and others. Express gratitude to those professors who have planted the seeds of learning and curiosity in your fertile minds and have instilled within you the skills and knowledge you will need to succeed."
President Monson spoke of witnessing such an expression of gratitude while taking a swimming class at the University of Utah. His instructor, Charlie Welch, had taught countless young men swimming and lifesaving skills. One day in 1944, during World War II, the gym door opened and a young man in a Navy uniform entered. Apologizing for interrupting the swim class, the sailor said he wanted to thank Charlie for saving his life. The sailor's statement took the coach by surprise.
President Monson then repeated the words of the grateful sailor: "You once told me that I swam like a lead ball, yet you patiently taught me to swim. Two months ago, far off in the Pacific, an enemy torpedo sank my destroyer. As I swam my way through the murky waters and foul-tasting, dangerous film of oil, I found myself promising, 'If I ever get out of this mess alive, I'm going to thank Charlie Welch for teaching me how to swim."'
Twenty young men, said President Monson, stood shoulder to shoulder as they watched tears of gratitude well up in their coach's eyes, roll down his cheek and tumble upon his familiar gray sweatshirt. Charlie Welch had received his reward.
"The lessons you have learned from the faculty on this campus may not be put to the test so dramatically, but they will enhance your life and your career," President Monson told the class members.
"May the lessons we learn as we glance backward help us to live more fully each day of our present, for such becomes our future," President Monson said.
Second, reach outward.
Real happiness is found in focusing outside of oneself, President Monson declared.
"No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man," he added. "Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy."
He pointed out that no one lives alone and there is no dividing line between one's prosperity and another's wretchedness. "Ours is the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire and to lead. We cannot be careless in our reach. Lives of others depend on us. The power to lead is indeed the power to mislead; and the power to mislead is the power to destroy."
Third, press forward.
"Whatever part you choose to play on the world stage, keep in mind that life is like a candid camera; it does not wait for you to pose," counseled President Monson.
"Learning how to direct our resources wisely is a high priority. We don't have to keep up with change — we have to keep ahead of it."
He pointed out that, increasingly, leaders from business, industry and government say it is easy to find people who can do what they are told, but difficult to find those who know what to do without being told.
"In our chosen fields, the obstacles confronting us may be mountainous in their appearance — even impassable in their challenge to our abilities. Press forward we must, for we understand full well that complaining is not thinking. Ridiculing is not reasoning. Accountability is not for the intention but for the deed. No person is proud simply of what he or she intends to do. Let us not be deceived. Like the mice who voted to place a warning bell around the neck of the cat, we may mistakenly feel that the problem has been taken care of simply because we have discussed it.
"Machines are not creative or imaginative, nor even responsible. They are simply tools, and tools do not work and serve mankind until skilled hands take them up. Because our tools are growing in complexity and in potential usefulness, we must grow in order to use them both profitably and wisely. Let us not be frightened. Rather, let us be challenged. Only the human mind has the capacity for creativity, imagination, insight, vision and responsibility."
To members of the Class of 2007 commencing upon the next stage of life, President Monson said, "You will continue learning after you leave today, for to cease learning is to cease existing. And the best way to prepare for your future does not consist of merely dreaming about it. Great men and women have not been merely dreamers; they have returned from their visions to the practicalities of replacing the airy stones of the dream castles with solid masonry wrought by their hands. Vision without work is daydreaming. Work without vision is drudgery. Vision, coupled with work, will ensure your success….
"Your future is bright. It is challenging. It awaits you. Safe journey. Safe journey to each of you."
Other highlights from the commencement program included student speaker Sophia Q. Said — a graduate, wife and mother from Pakistan. Besides President Monson, honorary doctoral degrees were also awarded to Utah businessman A. Scott Anderson, U.S. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, community leader Mickey Ibarra, judicial innovator L. Ralph Mecham, autism advocate Carmen B. Pingree and industrialist James L. Sorenson.
More than 7,100 degrees were awarded.
E-mail to: [email protected]