Lori Pelikan Strobel blogs on her website of the same name where she shares stories of navigating motherhood and womanhood with an empty nest and a dog. This post was originally featured there.
It’s the season of commencements. It’s the time to be inspired, to do something new, and to start an adventure. Parenting your new graduate, watching as he or she walked across that stage, I hope you felt the electrical charge in the air. The charge of change and transformation. When your graduate took off that robe, and motor board, and were ready for a change of clothes, they entered their next act. Do they have role models to help lead them? How do you continue to lead and guide them? Do you? What is your role now as they sail out to sea?
Driving To The Surface
There is a term used around submariners which demonstrates one of the ways of how a submarine surfaces. It’s called driving to the surface. In order to drive to the surface, the submarine positions its planes—the “wings” at the stern or bow of the sub—to rise, and the submarine rises to the surface. It uses low-pressure air to force seawater out of its ballast tanks to remain on the surface. I mention this because even though you have a graduate, there will still be days when this graduate rises and falls. We all hope that our children will continue to drive to the surface and if they submerge, there is always a way to drive back up.
This driving to the surface is a main quality for leaders. Time and time again you can tell that a leader has this quality to drive to the surface when no matter what setback, challenge, or choice someone encounters, it’s the ability to rise above and over it.
As you listened to the recent graduation speeches, I’m sure they touched upon the past, the future, and the courage to be a leader. You probably heard keynote speakers who were leaders in their field. I wonder as your graduate sat there, did they realize that some of these speakers broke barriers to become the leaders of today? How lucky are our children to have had so many more role models to choose from today than we did?
Looking For Role Models
Someone to watch is 2010 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, LT Tabitha Strobel, one of the first 24 female naval officers to serve aboard submarines. (In full disclosure, she is also married to my nephew.) LT Strobel says she always knew she wanted to go to the Naval Academy and she finds being on a submarine an extremely unique environment. She shares that the camaraderie of her job is unparalleled … “The best part about being a submariner is the people that you get to work with.”
Female officers have been serving on Navy submarines since 2011. LT Tabitha Strobel was one of the first females to do so. But she says when she got to her first sub, it wasn’t about being a trailblazer or being the first – it was about doing her job. – Women Redefined, U.S. Navy.
In listening to LT Strobel speak, I was struck by her humbleness. Her use of motivational and coachable words and phrases are characteristics of a leader and role model.
“A leader is someone who has the genuine desire to show up for the world and bring forth an energy of positivity and grace,” said Gabrielle Bernstein, motivational speaker, life coach, and author.
I can see for certain that LT Strobel certainly has shown up. She’s shown up to protect us and serve her country. She has also gone far beyond that by being a role model for young people today.
Listen To The Leaders
For me, as a young woman graduating from college in the ’80s, there weren’t many women leaders to encourage my growth. It was a time of new technology! And it was a time when women were just beginning to enter the business world. Providence College had just graduated their first women students about ten years before my graduation.
In 1984, for the first time in Providence College’s history, a woman delivered the keynote speech. A trailblazer, Commodore Grace Hopper, 77, was a world renown computer specialist and the U.S. Navy’s oldest active duty officer. Her speech expressed optimism for the new world we graduates were entering. Her words are as relevant today as they were then. A beacon of leadership, she achieved genuine success and learning brilliance in her field; where she combined her ability to communicate and lead with sincere charisma.
Sitting in the audience, perched to enter a world of women in business and the new age of information technology, I listened intently to Commodore Hopper’s words.
She talked about the new graduates entering the age of information or the information era, and the importance we, as people, still played, despite technology’s role in processing data. She also shared this important sentiment that stuck with me:
“A ship in port is safe. That is not what ships are built for. And I want everyone of you to be good ships and sail out into the future and do the things which we need done in the future for the future of this country.”
Commodore Hopper felt that as young people we were looking for positive leadership. Her navy sense of leadership was that it’s a two-way street. She stressed, “There is loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect your superior, keep him informed, make suggestions and take care of your crew.” Another part of the leadership equation she discussed was giving praise when praise was due.
Be Good Ships
She closed in saying how it was our job to provide leadership to the future and to the young people of the future.
“Go ahead and do it. Be good ships. Sail out to sea and provide leadership. For the most important things you can do, help move us—all of us—into the future.”
As I reflect on Commodore Grace Hopper’s speech and the words of LT Strobel, I think Commodore Hopper would be happy. LT Strobel represents what many brilliant men and women are doing today. They are leading. They are leading into the future with brilliance, wit, positive energy, and grace.
Lessons For Us All
I think there is a lesson here not only for our recent graduates but for us, too. Keep in mind that you can always drive to the surface; even if you submerge, there is always a way to drive back up. Focus on doing your job—no matter what it is—and do your best for that day and every day show up. There are men and women out there who have helped build this world with their courage, strength, and love – look toward these people for inspiration and for ships sailed out to sea.
And for us, the moms and dads, who have watched our child grasp their diploma with a proud smile, we need to continue to be a role model of transformation and change. Show your child that it is a commencement for you, too, as you drive to the surface with courage and grace. Continue to show up for your child with love and support. Your ship may be sailing out to sea, but remember, that’s what they are supposed to do. They may not need you to drive the ship, but they still want you to take care of the crew. So mom, dads, and graduates go and be good ships.