An Open Letter from One Senior Citizen to Many Senior Graduates

June 2, 2021 by Glenn Mangurian

Dear High School and College Graduates,

Congratulations to the Class of 2021! Even though graduation looks and feels different for you this year, the achievement is still the same. Your hard work, dedication, and mental toughness have led you to achieving this great accomplishment today. You are graduating in extraordinary times. Years from now you will share stories about graduating during the Covid-19 pandemic and the revived social justice movement. It is a turning point for the country as well as a defining moment in your life.

Your parents before you walked a similar path of recognition and celebrated the accomplishment of graduation. Commencement speakers, teachers, family and adult friends will offer advice as you start your transition to adulthood. There are several recurring messages that you will likely hear. Speakers will tell you to discover your passions, follow your dreams and channel your talents to make a difference in the world. That’s what I was told and it was good advice. My advice is a little different. Learn to get up after life knocks you to the ground. You are going to encounter one or more types of adversities such as health, financial, relationship or career. When that happens, don’t let it stop you from continuing to move forward and strive for you goals.

When I was young I thought of myself as invincible. My parents acted as protectors insulating me from some negative things and helping me up when I stumbled. Later, as an independent adult, I discovered that “stuff” happens. Adversity may come unexpectedly and knock you off your feet. It is easy to feel exposed, anxious and at risk as you face real adversity on your own. You know what? We are all vulnerable.

Many grapple with their vulnerabilities and expend much energy hiding them from public view. We are reluctant to expose our weaknesses for fear that others may think less of us. Some put on a game face and hide their fears. If you know how to pick yourself up, you will not be afraid of falling. Acknowledging our frailties actually makes us courageous and allows us to build a foundation of authentic self-confidence.

Some people spend a lot of time on the ground while others spend a lot time trying to avoid the fall. It is not fun to be knocked down. You’re going to have to build up your resilience. Think back about past challenges and adversity that you have faced and overcome. You may have found strength that you didn’t realize you had. While any one event may not seem significant, the cumulative effect is to build a “muscle of resilience” fueling your strength and courage to take on adversity.

We call the graduation ceremony Commencement because it is the beginning of the next stage of your lifelong learning. So take a deep breath and be present to this moment. Mark commencement as the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new, even more exciting one. You are no longer who you were and not yet who you are becoming. The world needs your enthusiasm and optimism more than ever.

Be courageous and go with Godspeed,

Glenn Mangurian

Senior Citizen

Glenn Mangurian

Glenn Mangurian has been a resident of Hingham for 35 years. He is a retired business leader with more than four decades of experience driving innovation and results with his clients. Glenn remains active with his writing, speaking, family, and community. 

In May 2001, Glenn suffered an injury to his spinal cord, resulting in the paralysis of his lower body. Drawing on his personal experience, he authored an article titled “Realizing What You’re Made Of,” which was published in March 2007 in the Harvard Business Review. In May 2017 he published his first book, Pushing the Edge of Thought, Possibility and Action – Questions and Insights from Everyday Life.

Glenn Mangurian can be reached at: [email protected]

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