graduation

Yesterday afternoon was spent at Essex University attending two graduation ceremonies. No, not for me, but in my capacity as Baptist Chaplain at the University. It was inspiring watching the hundreds of graduates and hearing the joy and excitement of their friends and families who had supported them through the process.

In congratulating the Graduates the Chancellor of the University commented that the hard work starts here. This life is not a dress rehearsal – you only get one shot at it.

Acclaimed songwriter Annie Lennox and London Olympic star Laura Trott were awarded honorary degrees at the University of Essex todayTwo inspiring women were awarded honorary Doctorates. Annie Lennox was awarded a Doctorate for her campaigning and work for human rights and many other causes. The University’s Dr Pam Cox spoke about Ms Lennox’s support for a wide-range of humanitarian projects which have made vital, practical, life-saving differences – above all in South Africa. Dr Cox also mentioned Ms Lennox’s ‘SING’ campaign which works with women and children with HIV – raising awareness regarding preventing the transmission of the virus from mother to child.

Annie Lennox’s speech was inspiring, humble, humorous and uplifting. At least it lifted all of us to our feet in a standing ovation. I stood as much for what she is doing to make a difference in the world as for her speech. You can read her speech in full here (click ‘see more’)

The second Honorary Doctorate was awarded to Laura Trott. She is a phenomenal cyclist who won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, holds world records and is also a multiple world champion. She took up cycling because her mum wanted to lose weight (honestly) and to try to control her asthma. The idea that she is asthmatic and still hurtles around the track at such phenomenal speeds is astounding.

Her speech was shorter and of a different style to Annie Lennox’s speech, but it was nonetheless also inspiring – especially considering that this 21 year old is not a trained public speaker. I do like her simple tweet after the ceremony: “Just call me Dr Trott.” Simple, yet I suspect revealing a degree (pun intended) of pride with a big smile.

So what was most inspiring: graduates and their families; Annie Lennox; Laura Trott? Actually it was a conversation I had with someone who simply introduced theirself with their first name and surname. I later discovered that he was Lord … and is very influential and important. The humility was most impressive on a day when people were being honoured with awards.

It reminded me that I should seek to impress an audience of One. His approval and joy is more than enough, keeps us humble and reminds us that we all need to be cautious to keep humble when others praise us and seek to pass on the glory to the One who deserves it.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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