Vail Valley Voices: Finding inspiration in world around you
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the full transcript for the commencement speech given by Madeleine Jacobs at Colorado Mountain College’s graduation earlier in the month.
Good evening. It is a privilege and a blessing to be here tonight. Tonight’s subject is something of real value, and it is something that concerns absolutely everyone here tonight.
Tonight’s subject knows no age or any other barrier because it is about that mystery behind dreams, behind achievement and behind everything good anyone ever does.
This subject has caused some extraordinary evolutions in the history of humanity, and it has been responsible for many smiles on a many faces. It is inspiration and the road to finding it.
The more I think about inspiration and how we all seek to be inspired by the world around us, the more I find I am thinking about love. More exactly: If there are any two things it seems that everyone is looking to find as they move through life, they are inspiration and love.
So I think about these two universal endlessly elusive ambitions being chased down by all of us everywhere we go. What I have come to realize is that both have a great deal less to do with what we are seeking than with what we are bringing to the pursuit.
Ask yourself about love. Ask yourself about that unmistakable feeling when a powerful personal connection happens.
Then ask yourself about inspiration, the things that touch your spirit and create in you desires to try to do, and to be. What do these achievements have in common? They both rely completely on what you are and what you yourself have to offer.
Being inspired and being in love cannot happen without the opening up of all that you are, to be ready and accepting of what it is that you need. They both require a soul that is curious and interested in that which is beyond itself and eager to share what it already has in its possession. They both demand a sincere and consistent ability of appreciation and an authentic impulse of true generosity.
Most importantly, they both demand not taking but giving.
I believe it is all too easy to miss this simple reality, as I believe that missing it is why so many of us stumble along thinking that if we are lucky, we will run into the inspiration we so badly want. The truth is that the inspiration cannot even be seen by us if we are not truly prepared to take it in.
God brings everything to us and sets it all before us, and His will is that we employ the will He gave to each of us. His gifts are many and vast, but they must be recognized first. Inspiration is the thing waiting to be done, the gift to be seized, and the spirit waiting to be felt. It cannot exist, really, until we meet with it and give it shape and direction.
My biggest source of inspiration is God because I have sensed His sweet presence, I have felt His gentle touch, I have seen His firm guidance, and on a daily basis I experience His unmistakable perfect love, peace and joy.
Somehow, and in a way for which I cannot properly account, it seems that this world surrounding me here at school is as inspiring as we hope the greater world outside it is.
Inspiration comes to me when I talk to fellow students, and sparks of their own spirits and interests touch my being. When I pass by a random act of kindness being committed, it inspires me to do the same.
The education guiding my course here offers avenue after avenue of fresh inspiration. To be a student is to be always ready to accept what is new to you, so inspiration awaits in every lesson. Then, even the ordinary daily efforts of the personnel here touch me in this way.
There is nothing sensational about investing every day the efforts needed to keep the school running as it should. At the same time, and taken in at the right moment, there is a simple beauty in this, as well.
Thank you for helping make our education at CMC such an unforgettable experience and for preparing us for the journey ahead.
To perceive inspiration as a flash of light or glorious burst of insight is to mistake the real quality of it. It is everywhere. It is in the books, in a stray sentence from a professor, in an overheard conversation in a hallway, and in the sunlight falling on the grass on campus. It is wherever I look, as long as I am prepared to see.
Like love, inspiration is all about discovery, and the willingness to be open to it. Like love, it will probably never show itself if we pursue it as a commodity we wish to capture. I do not believe that inspiration lies within ourselves, necessarily, but I firmly believe that we possess the powers that can identify it, give it meaning, and actually make it inspiration.
To those wanting to see inspiration, I say stop looking. Stop trying. Instead, see what is in front of you all the time and see what you can bring to it because this is where the magic of inspiration occurs. You will know you are inspired when you are the force within the inspiration itself.
Strangely, sometimes we run from the thing we have been seeking. In plain terms, we get afraid, and we usually invent excellent reasons for not moving forward.
Inspiration means something new, something not yet tried, and yet we turn our backs to it. Fearful, we retreat. Uncertain, we decide that nothing is worth risking that we already have.
Remember that something in you wanted that next step in your journey. You were waiting to be inspired, you made the effort to see the inspiration, and you must move forward because letting it pass you by does not translate to staying as you were. It means going backwards.
When we stay put, we fall behind because life keeps advancing all around us. This leads me to encourage you, beyond anything else, to realize that the inspiration sparking you is always a kind of a star. It asks only one thing from you: Follow. God sets stars before us for a very good reason. That we follow is, make no mistake, His will.
Our life’s journey does not end with graduation. We have the rest of our lives in front of us. Life is too precious to waste even one minute of it. There will usually always be options, sometimes too many of them. The importance of choosing wisely cannot, however, be stressed strongly enough.
We all have a past already, a past that will only enlarge. At some time, we may begin to wonder where life went. It seemed to have gone by in the twinkling of an eye. We realize we squandered our youth, having a good time and trying to be popular.
Then can come the wishing that we had done certain things and not done other things. The Lord can always turn our life around if we but ask Him. He transformed my life with His unfailing love and grace.
At any age, it is hoped that the past has taught us valuable lessons, but we cannot let it control our lives. Most things in our past have to, and should, stay there or else the past controls both the present and the future.
Try to remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotation, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
If what lies within us is God’s love, then we can look at people the way God looks at them and go beyond the details of skin color, language, gender and age. We may stray once in awhile, but I believe that as we are falling, the Lord will either catch us or teach us to fly.
I was fortunate to have had parents who loved me, taught me values and how to make wise choices, although this was not always appreciated at the time. Today, however, I realize as never before what a gift they were and and with the help of God, gave me the courage to follow my dream, one that is grounded in the love of God.
To all the parents here tonight and the ones who cannot be here: Thank you!
At such times, I sometimes think of Wayne Dyer’s well-known quote: “The more you extend kindness and love to yourself, the more it will become your automatic response to others.” It is very difficult to love others if you do not love yourself.
Dear graduates, we have completed this phase of our education. We are about to go our separate ways. Has everybody here decided what the next step will be?
If you are allowing fears of the unknown to stop you from obtaining your goals, just know that it’s natural to be afraid. It has often been said that some of the bravest people were afraid. There are many ways to keep fear at bay, but none better than the love of family, friends, and God.
Every time you face a difficult challenge, remember that the day is coming when you will be the source of inspiration and hope to someone else.
Before I end my message, I want to leave you with a few lines from the “Sound of Music,” written by Richard Rodger and Oscar Hammerstein: “Climb every mountain, search high and low. Follow every byway, every path you know. Climb every mountain. Ford every stream. Follow every rainbow till you find your dream! A dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life for as long as you live.”
Bless you all and thank you!