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Commencement advice would be short and simple

The phone isn’t ringing – at work or at home. No cell phone calls either … or voicemails. No emails … or even text messages.

With the graduation season passing by and with it, the need for commencement speakers, it appears an invitation to speak somewhere – anywhere – isn’t in the cards, at least for 2016. Oh, well, maybe next year.

But then again, probably not.

My name probably isn’t on any short lists of potential speakers. And that’s to be expected. I’ve never given a commencement address. I’ve never been asked.

But I’ve heard many of them as a student, a graduate, a family member or friend and a parent. Speakers have shared their thoughts on goals realized, dreams envisioned and plans made. And they’ve talked about a world of challenges, of promise and of opportunity.

That all sounds great. But why not keep it simple?

My commencement address – if I ever deliver one – would focus on two suggestions, two guides for moving on from high school or college, two simple acts that can make all the difference in the world:

Pick up your Bible.

Put down your cell phone.

Those simple instructions could be translated as Christ’s message on the commandments – love God and love your neighbor.

Picking up the Bible isn’t just a matter of focusing on Scripture; it’s about nurturing a relationship with God. The Bible certainly can be a part of that relationship, but in this case, it’s more of a symbol of a planned focus in life – a focus on developing and sustaining a strong faith life through that relationship with God, a focus on seeing that faith reflected in all areas of life, not just in faith or religious settings.

It’s about loving God.

Putting down the cell phone means much more than some "technology-free" time. That suggestion is another way of calling for personal interaction, face-to-face conversations, developing real relationships with real people, talking about real life.

That type of personal communication impacts all aspects of life – from college projects to job interviews to raising children to professional careers to living the faith. It’s about eye contact, voice and speech patterns, emotions conveyed and so much more.

It’s part of what we call loving your neighbor.

So, graduates, you have a choice. You can take the advice you want from those "other" commencement speakers, or keep life simple and try to follow these two suggestions from this "never-been-a-commencement-speaker." But don’t take my word on it … Jesus said it first.



Greg Schleppenbach’s move to Washington, D. C., might mean a change of address, but not a change in mission.

As executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference the past two years, Greg had the overall responsibility of representing the voice of Nebraska’s bishops on matters of public policy. But that work still included pro-life efforts, which he led in Nebraska for more than two decades before being named executive director.

In his new position – associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. bishops – Greg will return to a focus on life. And his heart, he says, always has been in pro-life issues.

Now he’ll just be on a bigger stage and in a position to have a bigger impact.

Nebraska’s loss is Washington’s gain. But perhaps this new national figure can be convinced to return home on occasion to rally the troops in our efforts to promote life.

But whether in Washington or back home in Nebraska, Greg will make a difference for life.


Deacon Randy Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at

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