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Keystone College Commencement 2018

What a wonderful day to celebrate 147 years of graduates finishing their time at Keystone College and stepping out into the world to make a positive difference! Parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, spouses, cousins, friends, neighbors, and companions: thank you for joining your hands and hearts in support of these graduates of Keystone College. The sacrifices you have made both emotionally and financially will have a long-lasting, positive effect for the next hundred years on your families and communities.

In particular, parents, when you encouraged your sons and daughters to come to Keystone, you gave them a chance at a life now full of possibilities as they join more than 17,000 alumni found in every walk of life in this community, region, and the world. Only about one-third of young adults in our country earn a bachelor’s degree. And you will soon see that it was well worth the effort, time, and money.

Students, thank you for trusting in the Keystone Promise and selecting us. Thank you for choosing to persevere when others left. Thank you for giving your best, even when you weren’t sure what your best was, or which direction you wanted to go. Thank you for making this College—your College—a brilliant beacon of “progress through persistent effort” (our College motto is via fit-vi). You believed in us, you belonged to and participated in a thoughtful community, and now you have become bright, confident adults. And along the way you have made friends for life and studied with top-notch professors.

Some of you may remember a 1985 film directed by Peter Weir, entitled, Witness. The film depicts a policeman, John Book, who goes into hiding in Amish country to protect a young Amish boy who was the witness to a murder. At one point, the boy, Samuel Lapp, discovers and picks up the policeman’s gun. His grandfather, Eli Lapp, admonishes him never to touch the instrument of violence, and with strong resolve says, “What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.”

A similar connection between hand and heart was made in 1610 in Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, when at one point in the play, the character, Ferdinand, reaches out and says, “Here’s my hand.” And the receiver of his affections, Miranda, replies, “And mine, with my heart in” (Act 3, Scene 1). This tender scene is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s earlier work, Romeo and Juliet, a play that was refashioned in the 1957 Broadway production, West Side Story, in the beautiful Bernstein/Sondheim song, “One Hand, One Heart.”

About a dozen years later (1970), the Motown singer, Diana Ross, formerly of the Supremes, included in her concerts an Ashford and Simpson song, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” where she would invite the audience to turn to their neighbors as a sign of unity, to reach out and touch their hands.

I used to think such words were merely sentimental or romantic exaggerations of idealized love. But I was wrong. When my wife, Delia, and I brought our two sons, Aidan and Thomas, into the world, we realized that the small things matter most. Holding the hand of a toddler, wiping the tears from a 3-year-old, or kissing a skinned knee, the little things matter a great deal to the heart. Attention to small personal details, such as someone’s name, reminds people of their dignity and worth—because they are important, because YOU are important. This is why we call each graduate’s name today in a celebration of your accomplishments as well as gratitude for your lives. [What do you think? Could we reach out to a person next to us and introduce ourselves and listen carefully to his or her name?]

For many years, Keystone College has been affectionately known as the home of the “Little Giants.” We embrace a certain amount of humility with our call to be great and dignified in the world. We know that just a little love makes all the difference and relationships need time and space to grow and flourish. Many things you presumed early in your college years are now seen more clearly and deeply. Many things you took on, took into your hands, you have now learned by heart—you have taken these values into your heart.

At Keystone College, we are part of a tradition that invites us to reach across boundaries and grow a democracy that is comprised of an ethical citizenry. This tradition values the rule of law with associated rights and responsibilities, mutual respect, private and public security, diversity, free expression, and ethical engagement for the common good. When we join our hands and hearts together for the right reasons, then the strength of friendship forms a solid foundation for our vibrant community. This is our legacy. And we have been a vibrant community for 150 years! Today we begin our year of celebration displayed by our Sesquicentennial gonfalon.

Graduates, what have you witnessed at Keystone?
What have you taken into your hands and into your hearts?
What gifts of learning have you gently reached out for and received with humility?

A Keystone College education enables you to know important facts and skills to get a good job, but also helps to integrate the sensibilities, virtues, and contexts of learning for a career or profession, so that you are open to surprises, think critically and creatively, forgive quickly, and you are unafraid to wrestle with ambiguity or impasse.

Similarly, I hope you have seen us model generosity, thoughtfulness, interdependence, and a passion for compassion lived in integrity and responsibility. However, if along the way you or we have been careless, thoughtless, or we have let you down, then let us know so that we can try to make it right. It is never too late to repair a wrong, and it is never too late to reconcile, to re-join our hands and hearts to choose wholeness and healing.

Finally, I invite you to measure your life’s success by the ways you reach out your hands and hearts to help others. Run toward those in need. Reach out to bridge differences. Charge into the gusty headwinds of adversity where you can make a difference. Nothing else matters—not money, not power, not popularity, not material goods, not social status—none of these things will ultimately matter. Focus on the little blessings of life and reach out to help others. Put your heart into whatever you do and your generous hands will follow. Live your lives fully in a profession, a career, a cause, a community, a promise, and make your heart and home an open-handed place of affection and song, as we have tried to do here in this caring and dynamic College.

[Keystone College Chorale begins to sing “Love Train” by the O’Jays, 1972, and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon, 1969.]

I hope that you will come back to visit your college often.

Thank you for being a wondrous witness of generous hands and hearts.

-President David L. Coppola, Ph.D.