"Oh Be Wise: A Variation on a Theme"

Here is the August 2016 convocation address by Lynnette Erickson, associate dean of the McKay School of Education.

Greetings graduates, parents, family members, faculty, and administrators. What a great day and what a lovely sight you are. I am pleased to have been asked to speak at this very special occasion.

My parents were good people, but they sent me to my very first day of school with a black eye. It was a real shiner, too. You may wonder how I got that black eye, so this is my story.

It was Labor Day morning in Phoenix, Arizona, and it was already over 100 degrees, but that didn’t seem to discourage any of the kids in my neighborhood from playing outside. I had learned to ride a big two-wheeler bike that summer, and I was pretty proud of myself. In fact, that very morning I spent a good deal of time perfecting the skill of riding without holding on to the handlebars. As near as I can figure, I must have decided that since I didn’t need my hands to steer the bicycle, I could use them to wave to the kids lined up on both sides of the street who were waving back to me. For a fleeting moment, I thought I was royalty in a parade.

Apparently I had not figured out that looking where I was going could be significant to my health and continued well-being, because the next thing I recall was flying headlong straight into the back of a 1963 Chevy Impala that was parked in the street. I also recall how hard and very hot my landing was. I remember my dad peeling me off the back windshield, carrying me into the house, and laying me on my bed to wait for the doctor. (Yes, in those days doctors still made house calls on occasion.) Aside from a minor concussion and a bad blow to the left side of my face, the doctor pronounced that I would probably live—if I “didn’t do any more dumb things.”

By the time I left for school the next morning, I was still a bit dazed and my left eye was black and swollen and ugly. That black eye seemed to last until Halloween, and I am happy to report that I had a successful first year of school. However, at a wellness checkup the following summer, the doctor examined my eye and found that in my now famous car-versus-bicycle crash, I had broken the orbital bone below my left eye. Because my eye was swollen for so long, it had not been noticed and had healed imperfectly, leaving a buckle in the bone and a noticeable bump under my eye. Years later, my ophthalmologist found that I had what they called “lazy eye blindness,” which he determined was caused by a traumatic impact to the eye. I really was not blind, but my vision was seriously impaired. Sadly, that condition is a permanent result of that unfortunate accident when I was just six years old.

So, what do we learn from this? I had learned how to ride a bike and was very good at it for a six-year-old—I knew I was good at it, too. The problem was that I was just a six-year-old biker gal who wasn’t watching for the things that could bring me down. In the biking world that is called “zoning out”—when you are so engrossed in what you are doing that you think you have reached “the zone,” but in fact, you have just stopped paying attention to where you are and what you are doing. This term, according to biking enthusiasts, is “usually used as an excuse for a particularly embarrassing biff” (The Pactimo E-Zine). I survived my biff and learned a good lesson.

I have increased in experience, knowledge, and judgment since I was six years old. This is called wisdom and it is something that we seek continually to acquire. Many ancient and modern prophets have called our attention to the eternal importance of being wise. Jacob of the Book of Mormon admonished us, “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:5). In his closing remarks for the May 2003 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled:

"Pray for wisdom and understanding as you walk the difficult paths of your lives. If you are determined to do foolish and imprudent things, I think the Lord will not prevent you. But if you seek His wisdom and follow the counsel of the impressions that come to you, I am confident that you will be blessed."

As you are graduating today, I remind you that graduation is not an ending but an opportunity to celebrate and look forward to a new beginning. I expect that you will experience many graduations, both literal and figurative, throughout your lifetime. You may have hit a few bumps during your BYU experience, had a few falls, been distracted, and maybe even biffed it a few times, but obviously you have gotten back up and kept going, or you would not be at this place at this time. Hopefully, you have learned to make good decisions, internalized the value of integrity, realized the importance of being kind, become more civil, and acquired a deeper understanding of what is truly important in life. Hopefully, you are wiser today than when you first came to BYU.

Now as I close, I believe that I speak for all those who have worked with you in some capacity on this campus, but more particularly for those from the McKay School of Education. Today you are ready to move on to a new beginning. You will make great contributions wherever you are. You have enriched our BYU community with your goodness, and we have all been blessed to be able to share the ride with you. We wish you the very best in all that you do. Watch where you are going, move forward, and above all—be wise.

Congratulations!

Sources:

Jacob 6:12

Hinckley, Gordon B. "Benediction." Ensign, May 2003, 100.

The Pactimo E-Zine. Pactimo Glossary of Cycling Terminology. Accessed August 2016. https://www.pactimo.com/glossary-of-cycling-terminology/.