Commencement Remarks – Beth B. Burton
Carden Memorial School
June 2, 2011
I consider it a privilege and honor to have been asked to speak at these commencement exercises today. Preparing for this occasion has brought with it delightful hours of reflection on many years of sweet experiences at Carden School.
We first became acquainted with Carden School in 1975. Our oldest child, Tom, had just turned five, and the over-crowded, pod-type classroom, split-session schools in Sandy were just not a viable option for us. What a joy and blessing it was for our family to learn of Mae Carden and Mr. and Mrs. Jeffs.
All four of our children were blessed with the wonderful foundation of a Carden education, which tradition has continued with our grandchildren. At one time we had twelve grandchildren attending Carden at the same time. Needless to say, during that period, it was a rare Friday that I did not have someone presenting something in a devotional. Devotionals are one of my favorite things about Carden. I love to see these beautiful children dressed in their uniforms, filing into the auditorium in such an orderly manner while Mrs. Jeffs plays the organ. I love the prayers, the pledges of allegiance, the scriptures, meditations, triads, patriotic thoughts, poems and songs. I love it when Mr. Taylor says, “Mr. or Mrs. Jeffs. Do you have something you would like to share?” When he says that, I think to myself, “Say yes; say yes,” because I know we will then feast on those amazing, spontaneous words of wisdom and inspiration from Mr. and Mrs. Jeffs. The pattern is wonderful – first there is commendation for the students who have participated in the devotional, then come the thoughts and insights for that week. I love it!
I had the great privilege of meeting Mae Carden when she visited the school many years ago. I found that she and Mrs. Jeffs share many wonderful attributes. Both of them are dignified and refined. They are very intelligent as well as very wise, religious and patriotic. The list goes on and on, but I believe my favorite attribute is the gift and insight they both have of knowing intuitively what is best for a group of children and for each individual child.
May I illustrate what I am saying with a personal experience? When our youngest son, Daniel, at age four emerged from his admission interview with Mrs. Jeffs, he was just beaming because of his love for Mrs. Jeffs. I heard all about her bowl of beads she asked him to count, the math games they played, her wonderful smile and kind voice. But most important of all, Daniel knew how interested she was in him.
On Daniel’s first day of Junior K, there were brand new crayons at each of the children’s tables. Daniel proceeded to break the crayons in half, reasoning that by doing so there would be twice as many crayons for everyone. Just as he was poised to break another one, his teacher told him to stop breaking the crayons, adding that if he broke another crayon he would have to go see Mrs. Jeffs. Well, the teacher could not have provided a greater incentive for him to break the crayon than to promise him an opportunity to visit with Mrs. Jeffs again. So…snap…He broke the crayon and was promptly on his way to Mrs. Jeffs’ office. Later that day when I asked Daniel whether Mrs. Jeffs got mad at him, he replied, “Oh, no. We had a lovely chat.” At the end of it, she said, “Now, Daniel. Please don’t break the crayons in half any more.” Daniel agreed and never broke another crayon. Yes, Mrs. Jeffs has a definite gift in dealing with children in kindness and love.
We live in a world today where the definition of a hero has been greatly distorted. God-fearing, righteous and noble individuals are often belittled and ridiculed. Mae Carden and Mr. and Mrs. Jeffs are true heroes of mine. Their motivation was pure and unselfish in establishing the Carden method of teaching nationwide and in founding the Carden Memorial School here in Salt Lake City. They saw a great and important need. They certainly did not seek worldly fame or recognition, nor were they aspiring to great wealth. Their motivation was a genuine love for children, for God, for our country and for the value of the right kind of education.
They believed that the right kind of education consists of core academic subjects, including classic literature and art. It is based on tried and true methods of teaching. It includes God, prayer and Bible study as well as a love for our founding fathers and respect for our flag. It demands the use of clean language, showing respect for others and is founded on high moral values. These are but a few highlights of the many worthwhile goals and objectives of the right kind of education.
Miss Carden and Mr. and Mrs. Jeffs observed the way the public education system in our country was drifting away from these core values. They saw a need, which they set out to meet through hard work, sacrifice, inspiration and incredible God-inspired insight. And meet that need they did for thousands of fortunate children.
There are evil and designing men and women in this world whose aim it is to destroy a belief in God, who have used public education to further their goal.
John Dewey, the father of American public education was a member of the Humanist Society. He knew that by using a humanist approach to education he could omit God from the curriculum or at least neutralize Him.
Then there is the sad ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which declared prayer in public schools to be unconstitutional. To me there is a cause and effect between this ruling which took prayer out of the public schools and the deterioration of the quality of public education in our country.
Mae Carden demonstrated her keen insight into this phenomenon when she said on two separate occasions:
“Do not let unbelievers mar your faith in life and in a Divine Ruler. There may be times when you feel you do not have the words by which you can overcome the arguments used against religion, but in your heart you know that those who argue against God have lost the wise path of life.”
“Do not trouble yourself about what others may say or think. Keep your faith in yourself and your faith in God.”
What a treasury of wisdom you have been given by Miss Carden, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffs and your many outstanding teachers at Carden. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Always play fair, be honest and never cheat.”
“Courtesy is not optional.”
“Happiness is a by-product of doing for others.”
“Remember to be kind, considerate and compassionate.”
“Be loyal to your family, your friends and your country.”
“Be generous in thought and deed.”
“A cheery face gives joy.”
“Be generous, be grateful and remember to say, thank you.”
“Home is a precious word.”
I loved Mr. Closs’s insights into the life of George Washington, another great hero. Mr. Closs said he believed the things which made General Washington great were his moral courage, his moral principles, his devotion to Christian beliefs and his ability to stand for a righteous cause.
You graduates have been privileged to be educated in this sacred environment – to be taught by these heroes of mine, including your dedicated teachers. What gratitude you must feel to them and to your parents for their sacrifices to provide you with such rich and rewarding experiences.
My hope is that you will remember the valuable lessons that you have learned here; that you will hold true to the foundation that you have received. The world is in serious trouble. You need to be a force for good in a world so full of evil.
In conclusion, may I share with you some thoughts Mae Carden included in an address to a graduating class years ago:
“As you face the approaching years:
“Look deeply into your own thoughts and ambitions; be grateful to your parents and act not selfishly but as a son or daughter; and measure your acts as you measure the acts of others.
“Remember to be kind and generous always…strive to maintain worthy standards without pretense, that you may be an example to those about you and you may even add drop of inspiration to their lives…
“May your education future be ever bright and may your personal dreams come true.”