Here is the thought I shared this morning with our graduates studying for the bar exam:

I became homeless on August 29, 2005.  Hurricane Katrina flooded our little house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that Monday, and without flood insurance, we were left feeling a little bit overwhelmed.  The magnitude of the destruction around us only intensified the feeling.

At the time, I felt as if I wore three hats – the family hat (husband/father), the job hat (pastor of a local church), and the community hat (president of our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate).  I was overwhelmed on all three fronts.  My family was suddenly homeless, a full one-third of my church was homeless, and, of all things, our Habitat for Humanity affiliate was trying to eradicate poverty housing from our community – we were suddenly going backwards!!!

The shock wore off more quickly than you’d think, probably because of the sheer size of the work staring us in the face, and we rolled up our sleeves in the Mississippi heat and got after it.

Somewhere in the weeks that followed I had an epiphany (I get those from time to time).  Out of nowhere, it instantly became clear to me what my goal needed to be for all three groups for which I felt responsible – my family, my church, and my community organization.  Survival.  That was the goal.  Not excellence, or perfection, or any other grandiose term.  Just survival – that was plenty to shoot for, and truth be told, it was a pretty lofty goal.

It may not surprise you that I found a lot of connections between Hurricane Katrina and studying for the bar, since both apparently qualify as traumatic experiences!  These were the two times in my life when “overwhelmed” was a word I thought about several times each day.

So it stands to reason that I think my life goal in 2005 is a decent goal for you to adopt in 2014, too.  It is unlikely that you will ace the bar exam, and that really shouldn’t be a thought in your mind anyway.  No, you’ve got a lot coming at you, so just commit to something else that is rather impressive in its own right.  Be a survivor.  Get up each day, face the daunting pile of work, give it your best for the day, and then get some sleep.  Rinse and repeat.

Before long, you will see that you have done it – survived.  That is an accomplishment for which you will forever be proud.

Al Sturgeon
Dean of Students


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