Dear Hyde Park Family,

By the time you read this message, my younger daughter Madelyn will have graduated at noon today from the International Baccalaureate program at Robinson High School. This fall, she will be attending American University in Washington, D.C., majoring in psychology or political science.

I join many of you in expressing the pride we feel for all our students, and the gratitude we feel for our schools, for having weathered unprecedented challenges over the past 18 months. Now, as I look to what lies ahead for Maddy, and my own next chapter as an empty nester, I decided to write this week’s Midweek Message in the form of this open letter, which I shared with her this morning.

Dear Maddy,

I can still hear the sound of your voice when you were six years old, gazing at the night sky through the living room window of our home in Iowa. You were looking up at the moon, singing a song you invented on the spot:

“Moon in the sky … so bright / Moon in the sky … so bright.”

Since then, I’ve seen that sense of wonder and curiosity replay itself in you countless times over, matched by the grit and fortitude you displayed through numerous challenges and transitions in your life. Today is a culmination of all you have worked hard to achieve, and the passion and integrity with which you pursued it.

Your life and your future, like the moon, shine brightly.

I join you in feeling all the emotions that this day brings. Your mother, sister, and I are intensely proud of you, for the dedication you brought to your studies, the diligence you brought to your leadership in the band, the devotion you brought to the church youth group, and the compassion, joy, and generosity you brought to your family and friends every day.

We are so excited for what this next chapter will bring you. As a college student, you will experience new, well-deserved independence.

  • You will be able to make many of your own choices, which means dealing with your own consequences.
  • You will discover who you are, and who you are not.
  • You will succeed at times, and sometimes you will fail.
  • You will gain great knowledge, as well as learn the limits of your understanding.
  • You will sometimes come up short, even if you do all the right things.
  • You will confront your fears, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them.

This is all part of maturing into adulthood, and it is as exciting and daunting as it sounds.

But even amid all these changes and challenges, a few things will remain constant. The first is that you will never be alone. In every moment, there will always be a huge cheering section by your side. Your mom, sister, and I will always be your greatest supporters, as will everyone in the family. You know that I am always a phone call or text message away, and I eagerly welcome every chance you have to come home. You have a church that will be praying for you and all your fellow church graduates over the months to come. And you have gathered a solid network of friends that love and care for you.

The other constant, of course, is your faith. God began a good work in you from the moment you were born. Your mother and I, along with your godparents Warren and Angie, claimed it on your behalf at the time of your baptism, and you accepted it for yourself when you were confirmed and became a member of Hyde Park. You have a much more nuanced faith than I had at your age, able to embrace both faith and reason, mercy and justice, and conviction and doubt in a way that God will use throughout your life.

As you stay faithful to your spiritual roots, you will discover God’s fruit born in and through you in ways you cannot imagine.

I share in the conviction and hope of many people who believe our future is bright because of your generation. Already in your young lives, you have grown up in the shadow of 9/11, a major recession, a global pandemic, and our country’s reckoning with our racial divisions. The same wonder, curiosity, empathy, and compassion that sparked your song in the moonlight at six years old will carry your destiny, and the future of our world along with it.

I could not be prouder of you, Madelyn Rose. God bless you, each and every day, as God continues to do a new thing, in and through you.