Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Thoughts from graduations's bleachers

It was a drizzly, dreary, cold Thursday morning. I was sitting in the LCHS bleachers writing thoughts appropriate for graduation day. But beyond the June gloom there was promise in the air. Graduation is euphoric; it takes me back to a time when every breath was a new beginning and gives me hope that my fate is not yet sealed.

My daughter Sabine was being promoted from the eighth grade and amidst the pomp and circumstance of the morning, I was filled with assorted emotions. Graduation is only a concept. In real life, you graduate every day. If the children grasp this, they will make a difference.

The program listed Cassy Quiring and Leigh Sclafani as graduation speakers, a tough job for two eighth- grade children. I have given scores of lectures on a myriad of topics and my pulse always quickens at the prospect. I wondered how the children would fare.

As a graduate, the world unfolds at an exponential rate. For a moment, you are Achilles, empowered by a physicality and invincibility that makes the impossible probable. However, do, as Achilles didn’t — watch your heel. You have inherited the Earth and everything in it. The universe has whispered its secrets in your ear. You found the Golden Ticket. But amidst all this, hubris will be your downfall. Read what happened to Odysseus in “The Odyssey.”

Each step you take toward the summit of your dreams is not just the means to an end, but a unique event in itself. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It is the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top. You climb toward the summit in equilibrium between the present and the future. It’s the journey, not the destination, that sustains life.

Take a moment each day to savor the present. Being aware of what you experience elicits appreciation. It’s all a part of being gold.

Staying gold, however, takes a conscious effort. The poets and philosophers in their countless epics have left us directions. Take heed!

Never lose hope. Hold on to a sense of wonder, for wonder opens all doors. Don’t become so sophisticated that you lose your ability to believe. Without belief, possibility will not exist. Take each day as a blessing because the less of life you take for granted, the more of life you will experience.

Never fear failure. Failure can be your greatest teacher. It defines your character and evokes your highest nature. So don’t look for the easy path. Instead, put yourself in situations that evoke your highest nature. The Roman gladiators would proclaim, “Vivere Pericilo Samente” (to live dangerously). That has merit.

The ceremony was excellent. The 7th-grade band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” the eighth-grade Women’s Ensemble sang the national anthem and “You Raise Me Up,” and the eighth-grade orchestra played “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

I’ve written a billion words but I could never have duplicated the brilliant effort of Leigh and Cassy as the graduation speakers. Their uses of metaphor, nuance and expression were unbelievable.

I’ll leave you with their thoughts. “Never let your inner child go unheard,” and “How we fight to achieve our dreams and wishes defines us,” Leigh said.

“Acceptance of others and ourselves is one small change we can make,” and “Our insecurities are not who we are,” were the words of wisdom offered by Cassy.

Here’s one last note from Leigh to all you graduates: “Your magic lamps await you!”

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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