A few months ago, on February 27th, you were
awakened at 6:00 a.m. to sirens blaring, along with a message warning you to get to high ground. Many of you probably congregated on Temple Hill that morning. There was a tsunami warning throughout the Pacific area following a tremendously powerful earthquake off the coast of Chile that registered 8.8 on the Richter scale. The earthquake lasted for 90 seconds and was 500 times more powerful than the recent earthquake in Haiti that caused such death and destruction. There was a lot of devastation in Chile. Over 400 people died. Roads were broken up, bridges fell, buildings collapsed, and up to 500,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Because of the magnitude of the earthquake, there was great concern about the possibility of a large tsunami, like the one that followed another earthquake in Chile in 1960 the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The 1960 tsunami killed 61 people in Hilo and twice that many in Japan. Fortunately, the tsunami that originated with the earthquake this past February was minor and Hawaii was spared.
It is incredible that an event an earthquake over 6,000 miles away from Hawaii has such a powerful potential effect. Immediately after an earthquake, most of the damage is apparent. The news footage from Chile in February showed the buildings, roadways and other structures that were damaged. But the experts couldn't really show or even know exactly what would happen with the resulting tsunami. It takes about 15 hours for a tsunami to get from Chile to Hawaii.
When an earthquake causes a tsunami, the waves travel in the deep part of the ocean at up to 500 miles an hour, but without much disturbance of the surface. At most, the height of the waves is a few feet. However, when the tsunami gets to shallow water and then to land, it slows down and the height of the waves can grow to up to 100 feet. Truly, as it says in the scriptures, "the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds" (D&C 88:90).
An earthquake causes immediate damage in the local area, but the effects of a tsunami are separated from the earthquake by both time and distance. They can be felt thousands of miles away and after many hours.
I would like to shift gears now from the negative and destructive power of earthquakes and tsunamis to the positive and building power of certain events in our lives. In fact, I would like to focus on this event your graduation. This commencement symbolizes a lot of effort, sacrifice and study. I know there has been sacrifice on your part, but also on the part of your parents and other family members and friends. Your graduation itself is brief and punctuates your efforts to this point. It is a joyful time and there are immediate effects. These effects may be in your income stream as you begin a career, or in your family life as you begin new adventures in other locations. Some of you may begin another educational chapter as you enter graduate school. Whatever happens next in your life will be greatly affected by what you learned and experienced while here at BYU-Hawaii. Some of you have found yourselves while attending the university. Some have found spouses. Some have found the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will walk away with a diploma today, but your diploma symbolizes much more that you take with you.
In addition to the immediate impact on your life that comes because of graduation there will also be many consequences separated from this event by both time and distance, like the tsunami that follows an earthquake. You have no way of predicting the influence of this day and what it symbolizes as your life unfolds. Like the tsunami that is nearly invisible as it travels great distances until it reaches land, some of the power of your education may not manifest itself openly until sometime later in your life.
One of the most powerful positive effects your education will have is on your own family. It will influence your children and grandchildren. I saw the influence of my parents' education on me and my siblings and on my own children. My mother approached life differently because of what she learned in college. She both expected and helped her children and grandchildren learn. I remember her interest in books and learning that still influences me to this day, even though she has passed away.
Your education can also be a great blessing as you serve in the Church and in your community. If you have a career, the broad scope of what you have experienced and learned will make you a better employee or employer. You will be blessed in many ways, and while you can't predict exactly what the consequences will be, they will be significant and the connection will become clear. I know the Lord will bless you throughout your life as you use all that you have learned and experienced here at BYU-Hawaii.
Now, as part of this final, official meeting commemorating your achievements, we have the rare opportunity to sit at the feet of one whom we sustain as a prophet, seer and revelator Elder Quentin L. Cook. He has come specifically to speak to you. As the last official learning experience as part of your education here, I pray that you will listen to and learn from an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.