Words of wisdom for my stepson on graduation day

I'm fortunate to have a father, left, who has pass on so much wisdom, which I'm now sharing with my stepson, Rory, right. He's an amazing kid who despite autism is graduating from high school with honors.

I’m fortunate to have a father, left, who has passed on so much wisdom, which I’m now sharing with my stepson, Rory, right. He’s an amazing kid who despite autism is graduating from high school with honors.

I always looked forward to this moment, even if it came on a path I never expected (being a stepfather).

There are few things more rewarding than being a dad, and as I’ve discovered in the last three-plus years, that word entails much more than anything biological.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect is passing on wisdom you’ve learned, if you’re as fortunate as I have been, from your own father.

My eldest stepson’s high school graduation is today. All parents take pride in this day. It’s a wonderful achievement. It’s a milestone. Most importantly, it’s one of those first steps toward being your own man.

I cannot express how proud I am of you. You have overcome obstacles that most folks simply cannot. You have met these challenges head on, worked extremely hard and are graduating with a higher GPA than I did (mine was 3.17 for those of you wondering).

It’s been 20 years (20 years!) since my high school graduation. I wanted to share a few words of wisdom to take with you as you build your own life:

“You do what makes YOU happy”: I’ve heard those words many times in my life from my father, and they proved to be extremely valuable.

It’s more than about just being happy. It means do not be afraid to be what YOU want to be. You are a good person and deserve greatness. Do what makes YOU happy.

“Be a man of your word”: Unfortunately, you are going to find that honesty isn’t a virtue. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice it.

When you tell somebody you are going to do something, do it. When you see a wrong, point it out. When you have an opinion, speak it.

“Be respectful and kind”: There’s an old saying about not giving respect until you get it. Ignore that. Even if you aren’t given respect, give it anyway. Why? Because you’re bigger than that.

Open doors for people, especially women. Say hello and smile. Look people in the eye. Give a firm handshake. Never swear in public.

A kind, respectful man is a good man.

“Work hard”: You already do this. Don’t ever change. Without hard work, you will accomplish nothing. With hard work, you can accomplish anything.

“Never give up”: I know you understand this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. When you have a dream, believe you’ll do it. Write it down as a goal, and work hard to achieve it. Be relentless in pursuing it.

“Be yourself”: Above all, you are a wonderful human being. A son to be proud of. A hard worker. Kind and direct. Thoughtful. Be yourself, and the world will embrace you.

Other words of wisdom: Tell your mother you love her. Call your mother. Respect and love your siblings. Laugh every day. Cry when you need to. Tell the truth. Get to work on time. Sleep eight hours a day. Read as many books as you can. Enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Sing. Sing some more. Play the guitar. Write. Visit your grandparents. Eat well. Be kind to children, older folks, animals and the less fortunate. Treat your girlfriend as you treat your mother and grandmother. Travel. Try new things. Do not carry fear. Never hesitate to ask me for more of these.