This is a copy of the speech I gave on May 20th, 2011, prior to awarding Caroline her high school diploma. (Note: I didn’t speak about her incredible athleticism since Ken’s speech focused on that important part of her life — I didn’t want to be redundant.)
I’ve been asked quite a few times if I’m worried about sending my daughter off to the heart of New York City. I think I know what the person asking the question means, but my thoughts go elsewhere: am I worried I’m going to be a walking fashion faux pas since I’m not going to have anyone to tell me if my shirt looks okay with my pants? Am I worried that there won’t be anyone home during the day to put a positive spin on a yucky situation? Am I worried there will be a huge empty spot at the table at dinnertime? Am I worried I’m going to miss my oldest daughter so terribly much I that the mere thought of it causes heartache? The answer would have to be, YES! But I take a deep breath and return to the intent of the question I’ve been asked: am I worried about sending my little girl to college in a big, big, big city 1,764.6 miles from my front door? The answer is, NO!
I’m not worried, because when you were only a few weeks old I’d put you on the changing table, reach down, and pull out an outfit for you to wear. If you didn’t want to wear it, you’d cross your legs so tightly that I’d finally put the outfit away and try another. When you were satisfied, you’d relax. I’d imagine you were saying, “You wear that jumper, it’s itchy and not terribly attractive!” You’ve never been afraid to assert yourself.
I’m not worried because you’re fun, energetic, and charismatic, so you always make friends wherever you go. But as I’ve watched you choose those people in your life you’d confide in, trust, and share burdens with, I pray a prayer of thanksgiving that you choose your closest circle friends and mentors wisely.
I’m not worried because I’ve seen you stand in front of a panel of judges, including carpenters, congressmen, stay-at-home moms and dads, CEOs, and college professors and fluently and articulately discuss medical malpractice, NATO, illegal immigration, US foreign policy toward India, cooperation verses competition, the importance of proper grammar and usage, and so many other topics. You did all this so eloquently that I know you will be able to not only earn votes to win in competitions, but for the rest of your life you will wholeheartedly earn the respect of those in your audience.
I’m not worried because I vividly remember sitting in the stands at the county fair when you were 12, 13, and 14 years old and marveling that you were able to handle a 1500 pound steer beautifully and confidently. I thought at the time, no one will ever push that girl around! And, I believe it to my core.
I’m not worried because when you’re challenged about your faith you respond with a loving, winsome, honest, transparent, and grounded answer. You aren’t ever intimidated, even if the challenger is hostile or has many (often many, many, many) years on you. You are steadfast in your faith.
I’m not worried because you are strong and determined — just like your namesake. You are incredibly positive, optimistic, and kind — just like your dad. You are grounded and loyal — just like your grandparents. You are fun, spirited, serious, happy, and motivated — just like your brothers and sister. But most of all — because you are you.
My calling as a mom is to equip you and help you realize God’s will for your life. I firmly believe that if you’re in the center of God’s will you are in the safest possible place. So, I worry for myself, after all, what am I going to do? But I’m not worried for you.
As you take the next step, my prayer for you is that your love will always be sincere. You’ll hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Be devoted to your loved ones and honor them above yourself. Never be lacking in zeal, keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)
There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings. (Thanks to Hodding Carter, Jr. for putting my thoughts in writing.) There is no doubt in my mind and my heart that you have strong roots. Now, I’m looking forward to watching what you can accomplish in His will as you spread your wings.
Your dad and I are so proud of you and honored to present you with this diploma.
I love you.