A long-standing tradition at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the commencement “cover toss” is legendary. I can still feel the thrill of watching my brother’s Class of 1970 toss their covers (hats) high up into the air at his graduation, never dreaming that 44 years later my daughter would be doing the same ritual with the same exuberance and, well, the same sense of relief!
What I didn’t realize before attending my daughter’s graduation last month is that it’s become customary to place money inside your cover (e.g., $20.14 this year, $24.15 next year) along with a note of encouragement for “whomsoever.”
Children and tweens RACE into the Stadium field as soon as the graduation ceremony is complete, hoping to snatch up a cover that will inspire them — or (let’s be honest) provide them with some cash.
I doubt we’ll ever know who picked up my daughter’s cover. I share with you the contents of her note because I believe she offers sound principles for all of us to live by whether we be 12, 23, 55, 64, or 93… What encouragement would YOU have offered at age 22? What core principles do you live by now?
To whomsoever finds this cover, keep this note.
Treasure it, hold onto it, and read it ten years from now, because a lot of what it contains won’t make much sense just yet.
My past four years at the Naval Academy have been extremely difficult and extremely rewarding. I have been blessed with so many opportunities here, available nowhere else; but the Academy has its price too, demanding that its students meet a very high, exacting standard in order to become the best naval officers possible. We all make mistakes, and every person’s journey is different, but we’re bound by a common bond of hardship and perseverance.
In light of these truths, then, I offer you some basic principles which I have found useful during my time here:
1. Be joyful. Cynicism is a poison that will sap the energy from your limbs.
2. Love one another. Traveling across the world, I can tell you from firsthand experience that, disregarding outward appearances, at their core most people want the same things from life as you — peace, a happy family, and security for their children.
3. Be humble.
4. Forgive. I still struggle with these lessons, but they are so crucial to the well-balanced life. Being the first to say sorry, though it may be hard, always leads to a faster reconciliation.
5. Value your friends.
6. Don’t hesitate to live. Adventures (much like friendships and laughter) are the spice of life.
7. Hug your mother.
8. Tell your family you love them.
9. Open your eyes and appreciate the majesty of a Higher Power in all of the moments of life, both big and small.
10. Never doubt yourself. There is good in everyone. We all have a purpose in this life, even if we don’t know it yet.
May God bless you and keep you, this day and forever.
~Brett Beeson, Class of 2014, United States Naval Academy
“Cover Toss” Photo by Flickr (United States Naval Academy)