Colorado Spring Mayor Blessing ‘Yemi’ Mobolade ’01 Delivers 2024 Commencement Address

by | May 7, 2024

Commencement address (as prepared for delivery) by Blessing ‘Yemi’ Mobolade ’01, Mayor of Colorado Springs, Co. — at the 77th Bethel University Commencement on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

President Barbara Bellefeuille, Bethel University leadership, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, alumni, family members, friends, and 2024 graduates of Bethel University. Greetings and welcome!

It feels good to be back home at my alma mater. Alma mater in Latin means “nourishing mother.” This special place, Bethel, my nourishing mother, helped raise this mayor. The 16th President of the United States and one of my all-time heroes, Abraham Lincoln, of whom I share a birthday with, once stated, “all l that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” That is the sentiment I feel towards Bethel University. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many Bethel staff and faculty members, mentors, friends, and “frientors” who had a profound impact on my personal, professional, and spiritual development.

My current kingdom assignment is serving as the mayor of the second-most populous city in the great state of Colorado and the 39th largest city in the country. With just over 500,000 residents, Colorado Springs is growing fast, and we are no longer a best-kept secret as for six consecutive years, we have ranked in the top 10 places to live in the United States by US News & World Report. Last year, Zillow ranked Colorado Springs as the No. 1 place to live for college graduates. Graduates, wink wink.

It’s been 11 months since I was sworn in as Mayor and I still can’t believe I get to do this job! It is an honor to go to bed every night and wake up every morning with the burden and the mission of advancing City flourishing. I am driven by the desire to make an impact and I carry great affection for the city of Colorado Springs, which makes being mayor a rewarding job.

As my family and I transition to this new identity of being in office. I am also getting used to the title of mayor in my own household. I am husband to an incredible woman, an ICU nurse and nursing educator, her name is Abbey. And we are both parents to three young kids, 10-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter, and a 4-year-old son. The struggle is real 😊

The other day, I pulled into the driveway and my wife walked over to my vehicle. The windows were down, and she came to speak with me through the passenger side. We were having a fairly important conversation, when my 7-year-old runs to the vehicle to try to get my attention. She exclaims, dad, dad, daddy, daddy. I ignored her because I was talking with Abbey my wife. However, she was persistent and kept calling, dad, daddy, dad, daddy. I kept ignoring her. She continued, dad, daddy, MAYOR, MAYOR, MAYOR. And you know what, I answered and said, “what do you need?” Apparently, I don’t answer to dad anymore, but I do answer to the title of mayor.

I still marvel at the story of my historic campaign and win as the first elected Black man and first immigrant mayor of a top 50 U.S. city. One of our local media partners called it a “seismic shift” in local politics. However, it is more than that.

My story is grounded in the story of God using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. I was born in Lagos Nigeria, in West Africa. I grew up as a misfit and had a challenging childhood experience. When I immigrated to the US to attend Bethel in 1996, I arrived as a lost, hurt, angry, and timid 17-year-old international student.

My story is a prime example and prime reminder that God is still in the business of using the most unlikely people to bring about His plan. This is my story. And it’s your story! If you are feeling like an “outsider” or believe you are “the runt of the litter.” You are the perfect candidate for Him.

Remember the story of the Hebrew baby born in a time of trauma and chaos. Adopted and raised by a north African royal family, enslaving the people from his birth heritage. This prince had anger issues and in a moment of passion killed one of the Egyptian people.

He flees for his life as he is wanted for murder. Now homeless in the desert, he eventually finds refuge with a nomadic Arab culture and becomes a shepherd, one of the lowliest jobs of the time. Yet God chooses this third culture kid, with a speech defect to confront the most powerful political leader in the world, to set free and lead 600,00 Hebrews.

People laughed at Noah for building that ark for so many years. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers only to rise to second-in-command of all of Egypt. Gideon was cowering in fear from his enemies when God called him to lead the Israelites in battle. Friends, God is in the business of using ordinary people who have overcome great adversity and hardship to do extraordinary things.

You are more extraordinary than you realize. You are more extraordinary than you realize. Friends, you are more extraordinary than you realize. And leave you with three related truths to consider as you flip the page and begin your new chapter of extraordinary things.

1. Number One, know thy “WHY”

Know thy WHY. Congratulations to all the 2024 graduates. Now WHAT? That’s the obvious question isn’t. That’s what your family members and friends are asking of you. What are you going to do? Where are you going to work? What new job opportunity are you going to pursue? What promotion opportunity are you go after in your organization?

Friends, identifying WHAT you are supposed is okay, but I am here to tell you that knowing your WHY is not just more important, it is divine.

It has been said, that the 2 most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out WHY. Let me repeat that. The 2 most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out WHY. What is your WHY?

German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said,
“He who has a WHY can endure any HOW.” I would argue that “He who has a WHY can endure any WHAT.”

For example, people know I am mayor of Colorado Springs. That’s WHAT I do. But my WHY is that “I collaborate for the health, growth, and flourishing, of my beloved city of Colorado Springs.” With this purpose statement, the floodgates are now open in terms of how to accomplish this. So, I can serve as a pastor. I can work at a business. I can start a business. Or start a nonprofit that unites over 100 churches etc. All of it is inspired by my WHY.

Friends, we work so hard to find the perfect job and when we do, we are still not content. Perhaps its because we lack a WHY, we lack purpose.

Unlike animals, which are driven simply to survive, we humans, created in the image of the Most-High God, God’s DNA crave more from life than mere survival. We are created with a purpose. We are created to be purpose driven.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Message Version), “let me tell you WHY you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Hmm so good!

Friends, there is a glory about your essence, and your being. There is a beauty and greatness in each and every one of you. There is a genius about you. You’re here to bring about the God flavors and God-colors in the world.”

Know thy WHY! It will give you the reason to get up in the morning, kick butt during the day, and help you sleep at night.

Your WHY is your calling. Your WHY is your conviction. Your WHY is your purpose statement. Your WHY is the vision of your life and work. Your WHY is your core source of motivation. Your WHY is your reference point for all your decisions and actions. Your WHY defines who you are and what makes you productive.

Know thy WHY.

2.Tempus Fugit.

No, it’s not a swear word. Growing up, I remember my parents having a grandfather clock, that sat as a furniture piece in the house. Embossed on the top of the clock is the phrase, “Tempus fugit” which in English means “time flees” or “time flies.”

The gift came in a beautiful black square box. And with a beautiful black ribbon. I couldn’t wait to open it. The note that came with it said, from Harvard University Kennedy Leadership School and Bloomberg Center for Cities.

I am lucky to be selected as one of 30 mayors to attend a Harvard Program for new mayors. The beautiful black square box was the follow-up gift they sent. When I opened it, and saw what was in it, at first, I was intrigued. Then I was puzzled as watched numbers count down. The timer said, 1,192 days. This was the number of days I had left in my administration. Then I sort of panicked and fairly sure my heart skipped a few beats as I watch the hours, minutes, seconds count down.

Now, when you look more closely you will see the printed words, “make everyday count.” Ouch! That’s good! This gift was intended to serve a reminder of the finite nature of my time as mayor, and that I need to make the most of it before time runs out. Because it will, whether my time as mayor is up or my time in life is up.

Graduates, tempus fugit, time is fleeing, the clock is ticking, make it count. Cherish each moment, seize opportunities, and live with intentionality and purpose. There’s that word again “purpose.”

Psalm 90:12 reads, “teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Another translation reads, “teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

There is wisdom from our knowledge of the brevity of life, and that our days are numbered and finite. Because of this truth, we are inspired to seize and live each day to the fullest.

The ancient Greeks had 2 words to describe time based on the two gods of time, Chronos which refers to sequential time. Getting from one time to get to the next. Chronos is clock time. This event started at 1:30pm and we wonder want time it will end. We also hope Yemi doesn’t speak for two long. The word for chronological comes from the chronos.

Kairos is the other word the ancient Greeks used for time. Kairos means an opportune or fitting time for action. Kairos means when you look at a moment in are in and you realize it is pregnant with opportunity. Kairos means when you look at a moment in are in and its full and bubbling of opportunity you have been given.

When you look at ancient text from this period in ancient Greek history, you would assume that everyday time Chronos is used more than Kairos. It is quite the opposite. For example, in the Bible, Chronos was used 54 times and Kairos used 86 times.

The ancient Greeks understood that time given in life is more than Chronos, routine seconds, minutes, days, months, and years but Kairos, pregnant with opportunities we have been given to build or act upon.

Today, your graduation is one of those Kairos moment in your life. Know thy why, seize each opportunity, live with intentionality and purpose. There’s that word again “purpose.”

Graduates! Tempus fugit. Your clock is ticking. Make everyday count. Last but not the least…

3. Chase the Lion

In the wild, human vs. Lion, the script ends the same way, every time. Lion chases human, human runs from lion. King of the Beasts outruns human and eats human for lunch. But in God’s economy, the script is flipped. We run to the roar!

Chasing the lion represent the pursuit of God-sized dreams, even in the face of fear, uncertainty, or obstacles. Chasing the lion is about daring to pursue something big, hairy, and audacious, something that may seem intimidating or beyond reach. Chasing the lion is being willing to take risks and overcome challenges in order to achieve it.

“Chase the Lion” is a radically different approach to life. When you stop fearing failure is then you truly live.

The lion I chased was running for mayor. This dream felt big, hairy, and audacious. It was intimidating. Campaigning is a blood sport. Its ruthless. It’s cutthroat. Being mayor is equally a hard job and thankless job. Was I afraid. Absolutely I was terrified.

And that’s just it, courage is not the absence of fear. To be afraid is completely human. Courage is acting in spite of fear. The value of courage lies in the ability to push out of one’s comfort zone, do what is right, when it’s not easy. The root of the word courage is the Latin word “cor” the Latin translated as “heart.” Cor-Rage. Hence the root meaning is a heart that is fierce. A brave heart.

I stepped into the political arena because, I knew it was not enough to complain about the state of affairs, I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Therefore, I raised my hands and said, “here am I, send me.” My team and I ran a campaign full of hope, optimism, and what’s possible. We ran on unity, putting people over politics. We faced our fears. We dared to fail. We dared to be different. We became the hope we wanted to see in the world.

Friends, as you flip the page and begin your new chapter of extraordinary things, stop running. Chase the lion. Take a leap of faith. Don’t settle. Take the road less traveled. Go big or go home.

Pastor and author Mark Batterson has written extensively on this subject. He put together a Lion Chaser’s manifesto and I have a 30 x 40 canvas copy of it in on wall that I read almost everyday to serve as a reminder that “I want to see God do things in me and through me that I am absolutely incapable of, so I can’t possibly take credit for them.” I am going to read this over you.”

The Lion Chaser’s Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
Run to the roar.
Set God-sized goals.
Pursue God-given passions.
Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.
Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution.
Stop repeating the past and start creating the future.
Face your fears.
Fight for your dreams.
Grab opportunity by the mane and don’t let go!
Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.
Burn sinful bridges.
Blaze new trails.
Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.
Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.
Dare to fail.
Dare to be different.
Quit holding out.
Quit holding back.
Quit running away.
Chase the lion.

Watch the full ceremony here