Graduation Day

The MBA is over and with it a beautiful graduation ceremony organized by the London Business School at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The whole day seemed just so surreal. It started early with the students arriving to be dressed up in their graduation gowns soon to be followed by family and loads of picture taking.

The Dean shook each and every graduating student's hand as his or her name was called out. My own experience was very special with my parents, my wife and my children all there to hear my name being announced. As I walked up on stage, I turned to my left to see my family cheering me on. For that brief moment, I felt there was no one in the hall but them. Although the distance between the stage and them was at least 200 feet or so, I made eye contact with them as I took my time to walk up to the dean on stage. As I came off the stage, I saw my two handsome boys videotaping me and I gave them a big wave. I came back to my seat and sat down feeling very emotional. At the age of 42 I had completed an MBA from one of the top business schools in the world and had the privilege of walking through a graduation in front of my parents, wife and children. I felt so humbled and thankful. Students to my left and right were cheering on but I just had to close my eyes and savour the moment.

The ceremony was followed by a gorgeous garden party at the school. As I left the party I walked through Regents Park in my suit, watching the ducks in the lake and enjoying the beautiful London weather. I sat down on a bench just letting the moment sink in. This time was never going to come back - I knew it. But I have always believed that when one reflects on life, it is the special moments that one remembers and cherishes. I had already 2 such moments in one day and there was going to be a third as well.

I came home only to find the most touching message from a family friend. She said she had thought of me when reading the story. The story was about an 87 year old woman named Rose (I don't quite look that old!) and it is something I have to share with you along with some special pictures of my graduation ceremony (one showing a 20 year gap between my 2 graduations):

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.

I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a littleembarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell

you what I know.” As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.” She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s

never too late to be all you can possibly be .

When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they’ll really enjoy it! These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE. REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL. We make a Living by what we get, We make a Life by what we give.

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