I was asked by quite a few people to share the speech I gave at Seekonk High School’s 2018 graduation. So, I decided to share it in it’s entirety; minus some of the “in the moment” additions that occur with every speech. It’s a little longer than most of my posts, but I would love any feedback. Especially when reflecting on the central question of; “What will your statement be?”
You are here tonight as a statement. While you sit here at what some consider a finish line, where the tests, quizzes, projects, homework, and classwork are no more; I have one last essential, yes, essential question to ask you. What will your statement be?
Many call this a culminating moment. That is true. It has been a journey to say the least. One filled with memories that will grace you with their presence from time to time into the future. I call it a journey because that is what your educational experience has been up until this point. It has been filled with smiles and tears; laughter and heartache; but it has only just begun. You will continue to learn that after you leave tonight. And that learning will not always be easy. There will be even more victories and defeats, highs and lows, sorrow and joy.
The fact that you will enjoy this celebration tonight…and let’s be honest…most of the summer before moving to the next stage…makes me think of it more as a milestone.
Have you ever actually looked at a mile stone on the side of the road? They aren’t always (or maybe even ever) the most memorable things, but they mark a specific point in the longer journey.
The faster you drive the quicker you forget them. The slower you go the more details stay with you before they disappear not only into the physical distance, but your mind as well. I want you to take a second and drive slowly by this one. Remember this night, take it all in, but do not let it define you.
You are stepping out into an uncertain world of ideas, movements, change, and possibilities. It is exciting and scary all at once, but that is where opportunity lies. As bitter sweet this moment is; you must eventually say goodbye and let it fade if you are to move forward and define who you want to be.
While I have all the faith in the world that you leave Seekonk High School prepared, the road ahead will not be easy. You must get comfortable with failure because it is part of the process of success. It will test you by putting thoughts of:
- I’ve done good enough,
- Somebody else has a better idea,
- I don’t deserve this,
- That other person knows more,
- I’m not smart enough, and
- I can’t do it…
…in your head.
Put all of those thoughts aside because if you are willing to believe in yourself, take action and commit; you have the capability of achieving your dreams.
Steven Covey once said that there are “three constants in life; change, choice, and principles.” Soon, you are about to find out the truth in that statement.
We live in a world of constant change and choice in politics, technology, or societal belief systems. That is what makes your principles so important. Many believe that change is bad and cling to their old beliefs out of comfort. Do yourself a favor and embrace what change can mean. An opportunity for you to create a better outcome. This however, is only possible if you stay true to good principles because they will help you make the right choices. It is ok, even natural to be uncomfortable while you are becoming a better person, but never because you are acting against your principles. Trust me, you will know the difference.
I said earlier that this night is a milestone. Why? Because in the words of Max DePree; “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” How far you continue past it is up to you. Do not wait to be the result of someone else’s action, rather, be the one creating your own future.
It is clear that the world you enter after tonight needs leadership. It needs a fresh look at old arguments, new solutions to old problems, and an incredibly healthy dose of empathy and gratitude. The world needs warriors.
Warriors are not born great, they make themselves great through principled action and an understanding that the world needs better, even if at times they appear to be acting alone. Leave here tonight and be those warriors. Each of you have the opportunity and power to be the one who:
- improves the environment
- assists those who are in need
- spreads accessible education for all
- restores honor to politics
- improves technology
- reduces international conflict
- creates better schools
- cures diseases such as cancer, MS, or Alzheimer’s
Each one of you here tonight are equipped to move purposefully toward a goal; act with integrity while pursuing it; and exercise the character needed to attain it. All you have to do is decide on a goal and define your purpose.
I feel as if I can speak for everyone here tonight when I congratulate you and say that the Class of 2018 has made us all proud. Now you must make yourselves proud.
The world is now defined not by what you know, do, or receive, but rather what you create, contribute, and your impact. In fact, the world and what you get out of it is about how much value you add.
Tonight is a milestone that has come to pass. It is a statement about what you have accomplished to date. Now it is your turn in life to do the talking. So I ask; What will be your statement?