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In the valley of decision

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Spring commencement ceremonies have begun in our area. Norfolk State University’s was held May 4, and Old Dominion University’s was May 11. In the coming weeks, many high school graduations will follow these college commencement programs.

Time is just chugging along. It was not that long ago that seniors in our Suffolk schools participated in the ACCESS College Commitment Day, where they proudly wore neon shirts sporting the hashtag #IGOTIN2019. I recently learned that the National Decision Day, recognized on May 1, was actually founded on the campus of the University of Virginia. On that day, high school seniors make the decision which school they will commit to for the four years of their post-secondary education. Decision Day is nearly a month in the past. The results of those decisions will soon be upon them.

Photos of graduates smiling in their cap and gown regalia now flood my Facebook thread. My thoughts reflect back to my first college graduation. The week of commencement at the U.S. Naval Academy is commonly known as Commissioning Week. It is the highlight of the year for all midshipmen. I still remember that May day as one of the greatest events in my memory. I often say that my choice to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and commit to naval service was the second most influential decision I have ever made. (It comes second to my decision to give my life to Jesus Christ.)

On May 26, 1999, more than 20,000 witnesses at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium watched me as I raised my right hand to accept my commission as an ensign in the United States Navy. Graduates of the service academies don’t just walk away with a diploma in hand; we raise our right hands to a commitment of service and take our oath of office as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps. I have shared in this column once before how that moment was extremely emotional for me. That day, a public audience of many watched me commit to show up for the U.S. Navy. To show up is not just being present; showing up is about your signature being impressed upon the environment that you are in and upon the nature of the work you are doing.

There is a line from the movie “Valley of Decision” that comes to mind. Paul, the oldest son in the Scott family, shares what it means for his family to own a part of the steel industry. He looks out the window at the steel mill off in the distance and he makes a powerful claim when he says, “You’re in their sweating, burning into the machinery yourself. The mill is a giant of a human thing, sir, it’s got a heart and a soul.” Paul’s monologue explains how we have the ability to impart ourselves into our own workmanship, designs, signatures, creations and our choices.

If May 1 is National Decision Day, then the entire month should be recognized as the month of decision. For many graduates, this is has to be an overwhelming season. May 1 leads many months thereafter when a graduate commits to show up for whatever career or path he or she has chosen. In those months, they will experience the valley of decision. The key to success in the valley of decision is the response to the choices you meet. Respond with intention to impart yourself in what you choose. Own your decision. Do not allow others to choose for you. You will show up in the decisions you make. The decisions you make show the real you. In these weeks before graduation, I pray our graduating seniors know what it means to show up for this next phase of their life’s journey.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.