Presidents, principals, guest speakers and valedictorians will speak of new horizons, a future yet to be written, a world to be changed. They will urge those who have reached this achievement to have faith in themselves and to never stop learning, never stop believing, never stop dreaming.
All graduates who walk across stages to receive their diplomas represent unique stories. Few are as unique as Bob Zonneville. According to Brian Albrecht's article in The Plain Dealer, Bob Zonneville graduated from Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio last Saturday at age 88. A World War II Veteran, Zonneville fought in the 8th Infantry Division across Europe and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He was twice wounded, once by a hand grenade and later by artillery shrapnel.
Zonneville says he started college in his eighties because of his wife, Carol, who passed away in 2008. A career school teacher, she constantly urged him to get his college education. “I thought, maybe in her memory, I ought to do it.” Given the opportunity to enroll in non-credit courses at his advanced age Zonneville said, “Nah. I’ll pay the tuition. I’m going to be a student. I’m going to get the credits. I’m going to do the work.”
One 19-year-old classmate said, “He’s also always telling us to do better for ourselves and keep succeeding.” One professor said, “His enthusiasm is contagious, and his positive outlook on our younger generation is refreshing.” Another said, “He always wants to learn something new. He’s determined to participate and be involved.”
Graduation commencements inspire us because they not only recognize significant achievement, they celebrate new beginnings, new possibilities and opportunities. Education offers to the young the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills that equip them for the future. For those who are older, a chance to re-tool and pursue new dreams.
God is always about new beginnings. He challenges the young to set their feet on a path that leads to life. To those who are older, He offers opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over. Paul wrote in Corinthians “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”
Graduation reminds us of God’s promise at Pentecost. “Your young men shall see visions. Your old men shall dream dreams.” God wants every person to discover His vision for their life. Though none of us in our youth can possibly know the twists and turns that lie before us, we can know that God has a vision and a plan for our life. No matter how long we live, we are never too old to dream new dreams about the future and make the world a better place.