My BYU–Hawaii ‘ohana, Aloha!
On this special day, there are many thank you’s that need to be given to the people that helped myself and the other graduates to reach this point. Please join in applause around the world for our spouses, parents, teachers, friends, administrators, staff members, aunties, uncles, and community. Mahalo to each of you! We stand on your shoulders in this accomplishment. Above all, we acknowledge God who in every detail helped us reach this milestone.
This is the theme of my address today. It’s taken from the title of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s album in 1993. It includes songs such as the widely known “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World,” and the stirring “Hawaii 78.” An interesting aspect of this album is that its cover photo is of Bruddah IZ with his back facing the viewer. Yet the title is Facing Future, and we would presume that he should be facing forward like he is looking to the future. The contrast in this album cover is based on a Hawaiian proverb which states that one can only move into the future by looking to the past. Accordingly, today I want to look back on our BYU–Hawaii experiences as we face our future after graduation. As I share my reflections, I pray that the Spirit will help you to reflect on the things that you have learned while at BYU–Hawaii, and how these things will help to chart your future.
I will focus my reflections on three aspects of our university experience. First, the religious aspect; second, cultural; and third, career and academics.
First, the way that religion and spirituality have been infused into our education at BYU–Hawaii holds powerful principles for our entire life. Reflect on the impact of weekly devotionals, consistent religion classes, temple work, ward activities, and living the honor code. The combined effect of these spiritual experiences is profound! I know that I have changed into a better person because of this spiritual focus. Reflect on how blessed our lives will be as we continue a similar focus into the future. How will we have weekly devotionals, continue gospel study, serve in the temple, participate in our ward or branch, and uphold high standards of living as in the honor code?
Second, we have all grown culturally while attending a university with over 70 countries represented! Think about all the knowledge and respect we gained for other cultures while we were here. Many of us participated in cultural clubs. One of the culture clubs that I participated in was the Maori club. This helped me better appreciate the trip to New Zealand that I took with the BYU–Hawaii concert choir in 2019. While there we attended several Maori immersion schools which ended up being one of the most inspiring experiences to me. At the immersion school in Kaikohe, the students welcomed us with their haka. The passion and spirit in their words and movements deeply impressed my mind and heart. They honored their ancestors and families with their convictions. This experience along with many others helped me to appreciate the diversity of this world. Reflect on how your diverse experiences at this university expanded your perspective. How will we continue to value, encourage, and perpetuate diversity in our future?
Third, let’s reflect on our career and academic journey here at BYUH. Our university is unique and powerful in that we can receive direct mentorship from professors. At many universities, students rarely get to know their professors. In contrast, some of the professors on this campus are the first people I think of to counsel in making decisions regarding my career, education, and personal matters. Once while traveling to an academic conference in Hilo, I spoke with my professor on the plane about his life journey. He told me his dream had been to surf professionally; however, when he reached a point when he could make it to the professional level, he was right at the age of serving a mission. He chose the Lord and served a mission. After his mission, he got into surfing history which eventually became his focus in graduate school. This led to him becoming one of the preeminent historians on surfing. He could do what he loved while also providing a stable situation for his family. As I heard the journey of my professor, I saw how the Lord directed him to a better future than he had dreamed of. His mentoring strengthened my determination to always put the Lord first in my life decisions. Reflect on the guidance you have received from mentors here at BYUH and the impact it has had on you. How will we continue to counsel with our mentors and eventually become mentors to others?
In closing, I know the Lord has much in store for each of us. I have felt this clear prompting as I prepared this message. God will work wonders in your own life and those around you as you apply the lessons you learned at BYU–Hawaii. Reflect on your spiritual, cultural, and your academic, and career growth; and keep on growing. Congratulations class of 2021! We are facing the future.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.