By Brittanie Morris
With temperatures outside in the 90”s, President Samuelson appropriately welcomed the 2,513 Brigham Young University graduates Thursday as he began his address: “We warmly welcome each of you, both literally and figuratively, to our commencement exercises this afternoon.”
The graduates, whose age range was almost 50 years and whose gender ratio was nearly one to one, came from 48 of the United States, five U.S. territories and 55 other countries.
Throughout the commencement ceremony, graduates were challenged to apply in life what they learned at BYU and to live by the university”s maxim, “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Each speaker mentioned the importance of retaining “the spirit of the ”Y”” that students experience at BYU.
President Samuelson told graduates that they are especially well equipped to go into the world and contribute in special ways as a result of their BYU experience.
“At BYU we are able to hone our academic skills together with strengthening our faith and our capacities for service to God and to our fellow man,” President Samuelson said.
President Samuelson also said he believes each graduate has made major steps in the process of preparing for the eternities through their knowledge and testimonies gained at BYU.
BYU Alumni Association President J. Craig McIlroy, who spoke next, counseled students to maintain balance in their lives as they enter this ever-busy world.
He quoted business consultant Bob Dunwoody who recommends slowing down, focusing on personal relationships and entertaining the possibility that something new might work.
McIlroy also spoke of the “spirit of the ”Y”” and quoted President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “I hope it has become a part of you… It should become an inseparable part of your very nature… Cultivate it in your very lives and hold its very essence until you grow old and gray.”
Student speaker, Rachel Seely, told students to remember the “spirit of the ”Y”” in a different way.
She spoke of “Sinai experiences,” those times when from a heightened and spiritual perspective people see and wonder at the workmanship of the Lord and come to understand their place in the world and purpose for the future.
Seely closed her remarks with an admonition for graduates to serve the world around them while remembering their Sinai experiences and shared a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who wrote, “Earth”s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Presidency of the Seventy, the commencement ceremony”s final speaker, tied the ceremony”s remarks together with his single challenge for graduates to attain true greatness.
Elder Christofferson suggested that a person”s greatness is not determined by his or her achievements or high position among men. True, or primary greatness, he said, is measured by excellence in “those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind.”
He said true greatness is rooted in those qualities of character that people inherently possess and in their steady discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elder Christofferson encouraged graduates to live their lives to God and live them with integrity.
He quoted President Howard W. Hunter, who said, “…True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a one-time effort or achievement. It requires a multitude of correct decisions for the everyday choices between good and evil.”
Elder Christofferson closed the commencement ceremonies by reminding graduates that it is excellence in the common undertakings of life that makes people great.
“The great ones are those who minister to others; the chiefest is the one who serves the most,” he said.