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Life is a Journey

Life is a Journey

Mortar board reading "Psyched for a new adventure"

For the first time in two years, Berea College students gathered with friends and family in person to celebrate their commencement. The word “commencement” is appropriate. It means beginning. For these 80 students, as their undergraduate experience ends, their new lives begin. They will find, like many before them, that it is the commencement of a journey that may or may not go as planned. Life will take them in different directions, and at every unexpected turn will be a lesson.

We were blissfully ignorant of the turn life was about to take two years ago, the last time we met together. We responded to the pandemic by exercising our technological muscles to continue the Berea College mission—the Berea College journey. That included moving classes and work online, and for three consecutive graduating classes, their ceremonies commenced digitally thanks to the efforts of many people across several departments to make virtual graduation ceremonies a possibility. We learned we are more nimble than we imagined.

Robert Yahng

This December, thanks to available vaccinations, the road brought us all back together again. Berea College alumnus and retired chair of the Berea College Board of Trustees Robert T. Yahng addressed the graduates, explaining to them that life is, indeed, a journey, and the step they were taking today was but one of many more to come. Yahng spoke of his own road to success, which at one time in his life included subsisting on oatmeal and soup to get by. He emphasized to the graduates the value of being intentional about their journey, about having a plan, what you wanted to accomplish in your first five years, and then what after that.

But Yahng also noted they would face the unexpected, that the road might get bumpy at times, or that things may not work out exactly as they’d hoped, and that there would be unanticipated forks in the road, leading to new opportunities they could not have imagined. The key is not stopping when life throws you an unexpected detour. One must continue on to one’s destiny.

Life is certainly a journey and for nearly all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unexpected detour.  We are thankful for many blessings that have enabled so many of us to continue our journey despite that detour, and deeply sad for all our friends, family and fellow citizens for whom it was the end of the journey. We will carry them in our hearts as we continue, ever onward, to adapt and move forward.

Another surprise and a reason for sadness were the terrible storms that occurred in the western part of our state last weekend, just the day before our commencement celebration.  With relief we confirmed that none of our graduates or their families were impacted, yet we proceeded with sadness for the many Kentuckians who had lost their lives or homes.

Last Saturday we celebrated each new Berea College graduate as they began their respective journeys into the unknown. For though we may not know what lies ahead for them, and perhaps they do not either, we are confident that their education has equipped them to handle the twists and turns that come their way. We celebrated, too, the idea that though they may not end up where they expect, their destinations will bring them unique wisdoms, insights, skills and talents they would not have acquired otherwise. In celebrating the beginning of their journey, we also celebrated their unknown destinies and destinations.

Two women posing in their caps and gowns and with their diplomas
Two men posing in their caps and gowns and laughing