Use Action and Commitment to Succeed

What follows is the speech I gave to the Class of 2017 at their graduation.  I was asked for a copy from a few people and to share by some others so I have included the whole speech below.  Therefore, feel more then free to ignore the whole italics portion in the beginning.  It is all the “thank yous” and while important is not essential to the message.

I was asked before the ceremony if I get nervous when I give this speech. My answer was no. Why? Because if you believe in what you are saying there is no reason for you to worry. I truly believe there are no boundaries for these students if they follow through on their passions.


Please be seated.

I am Dr. Christopher Jones and I want to welcome you to the 2017 Seekonk High School Graduation Ceremony.

Before we get started…

Out of respect for all those who have planned this event and especially those who are being honored tonight; I ask that you take a moment to silence all your cell phones and any other electronic devices.

No ceremony ever goes well without the tireless efforts of those behind the scenes.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank:

  • Jim Roy (Director of Buildings and Grounds) and his staff for setting up and putting all of this together.
  • 4 Town Farm for providing the flowers.
  • Peter Hoogerzeil, Mr. John Moran, and their students for the sound and video this evening, and
  • Smialek and members of the band for providing us with the fine music.
  • All the Faculty and Staff

I also have a few honored guests both in the audience and on the platform that I would like to recognize.  Our guests up here are:

  • Chairman of the School Committee; Mr. John Dietel
  • Superintendent of Schools; Mrs. Arlene Bosco
  • Director of Guidance; Mrs. Christine Whatley
  • Interim Assistant Principal; Mr. Kevin Aguiar
  • Senior Class Advisors; Ms. Kathleen Wilson and Mrs. Laura Almeida

In the audience we have:

  • Massachusetts State Representative; Mr. Steven Howitt
  • Town Administrator; Mr. Shawn Cadime
  • Chief of Seekonk Police; Mr. Craig Mace
  • School Resource Officer; Mr. Keith Perry
  • Town Selectman; Mr. Nelson Almeida
  • Elementary School Administrator; Mrs. Nancy Gagliardi
  • And again, because they deserve it; all the Seekonk High School Faculty and staff

Parents, family, and friends…we can never thank you enough.

This is a special night and marks an important anniversary.  Therefore, I would also like to thank and welcome a group of people here tonight that made this walk 50 years ago after completing the first full year in a brand new high school in the Town of Seekonk.  They were:

  • the first class to start spreading the ideals of the Seekonk Warrior;
  • a class whose members were also excited, but a little nervous that night just like this class is tonight;
  • a class that has taken their time to come back to help send today’s students into life after high school

Please take a moment to stand and recognize some of the members of the class of 1967.  Thank you for making the journey back here tonight.

Finally, thank you to the actual guests of honor.  They have been sitting here fairly quiet, which I have to say; is a little unusual.  So let’s see if we can hear a little from them. Thank you for being here tonight Class of 2017!

This is a culminating moment on a journey that has taken years to achieve.  It is filled with memories that will grace us with their presence from time to time into the future.  It has not always been easy, but success does not come without hard work, struggle, and support.

As you look out into the crowd tonight you see those who have supported you along the way.  You may also notice or think about those individuals who supported you, but have passed and are unable to join us tonight.  Take heart, know they are proud, will always be with you, and silently thank these special individuals as we progress through this wonderful celebration of what appeared to be a long time coming, but has now passed in the blink of an eye.

I mention 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.  The world continues to rapidly change.  Technology and innovation appear to rule the day.

You are stepping out into a world of ideas, movements, change, and possibilities. There has hardly been a time that I can remember where so much has been possible.   All it takes is the doing of it.  It takes starting, commitment, and following through.

I said something the other evening at the Senior Sports Banquet that got me thinking.  I mentioned that Fred Crippen and I had asked something of the athletes and they delivered.  Well, isn’t that what has been happening your whole life up until this point? Think about that.

Up until now, you have been repeatedly asked to do things; from the mundane to the exciting; from the easy to the difficult; from what you liked doing to what you didn’t like, as a way of guiding you to this moment of success.  Well, it looks like you delivered.

Now, tonight signifies a change. It is now on you.  You must now begin asking of yourself and if you truly want to be successful; you need to deliver.  Whether you have been delivering or are thinking about trying to now, one thing is clear; now is the time to start and continue.

Many view this ceremony as an end.  Trust me, your experience in life up until this point is just the beginning and this marks a stepping off point.  You are standing before infinite possibilities. You are equipped. You are ready. The direction you now head in is your choice.

Ask yourself this; how successful do I want to be?  How far do I want to go?  What do I want to accomplish?

Here is the beautiful thing about whatever you answered. It is completely doable.  If you are willing to believe in yourself, take action and commit; you have the capability of achieving your dreams.  You just have to commit to the belief that you are the one who will:

  • create the next generation of electronic devices that make life easier,
  • make a difference by becoming civically active,
  • start your own successful business,
  • improve the environment,
  • play for a philharmonic,
  • perform on Broadway,
  • have your art displayed internationally, or
  • solve local state, national, or even world problems…

You just have to commit to and act on the belief that you can make the world a better place for everyone around you by improving yourself.

Vince Lombardi described it perfectly when he said; “Most people fail not because of a lack of desire, but because of a lack of commitment.”

From academic performance to athletic achievement; from art awards to musical distinction; and from Spirit Week to a two night Senior Trip in New York City; this class has so many students that have done so much and shown they have that commitment.

Now leave this place and go further.  Set your mind to the next task…ok maybe not tonight or even this weekend. You deserve a little time…

But seriously…who do you want to be and what do you want to become?  That is what lies in front of you. It is not multiple choice or short answer, but instead a story that only ends where you finish writing.

Don’t get me wrong.  Being successful will not be easy, but the things in life worth having never are easy.  That’s what makes them valuable.  You will need to push past those who doubt you, those who do not believe in you, and most importantly; you will have to push past your own fears by staying true to your own beliefs and goals. That’s called character.

You must get comfortable with failure because it will always happen right before you make a big jump closer to success. It will test you by putting the thought of “I’ve done good enough” in your head.

That is when many people will stop pushing, lose their commitment, and settle for mediocrity.  Don’t be that person.  Good enough is an awful term.  If you are tempted, ask yourself: When has “good enough” ever helped anyone become the best possible version of themselves? The only time good enough is ever really good enough is when it is the best you can possibly do…and only you really know (and have to live with) that.

I said earlier that this night is a beginning. Why? Because in the words of Max DePree; “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.”  How far you take this moment depends on you.  You have a choice.  It depends on what you make it.

Do not wait to be the result of someone else’s action, rather, be the one who is making the rules.  But, that takes work, effort, and following through.

We asked and you delivered. You are here tonight not because of chance, rather you are here tonight because of dedication.  Whether quiet or loud, consistently or in spurts; you have committed yourself to getting here.  Now proceed as if success is inevitable, because it is if you work hard and go forward with character.

Think about who you are at this moment and how you arrived here…think about effort, sacrifice, and gratitude, and success…think about who you wish to become…think about effort, inspiration, a dream.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself…am I ready?  Now make the commitment to you, take a deep breath, and tell yourself…Yes I am.

Class of 2017, you have come far, but your journey has only started.  Warriors are not born great, they make themselves great through determination, character, and gratitude.  You have already made all of us here tonight proud for what you have started.  Now go make yourselves proud.  I have no doubt that the exact amount of success you want lies ahead for all of you. 

Don’t wait for it to come to you.  Go to it and make it yours.

I am truly grateful for the time you have given us and wish you all the best.  Be strong, be brave, be warriors!