Thursday, May 1, 2003

Commencement Message

Good evening.  I am fortunate to be able to speak after receiving such a flattering introduction.  Jennifer, you make me sound very impressive.  Thank you very much.
Before I begin my message, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who helped me achieve todays success.  Thank you to my parents, who started me on this path of learning so many years ago with the book The Little Engine That Could¸ making sure that Ive always had an I CAN attitude.  Thank you to my teachers, who have challenged me to apply this attitude to my studies.   Thank you to my friends, people who have kept school from being the only thing on my mind, making the high school experience dare I say it? fun.  Thank you to everyone else in this school, for eliminating many of our worries by resolving them themselves.  And finally, thank you to everyone in attendance today for joining my fellow graduates and I in this once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.   
Today I am honored for making an outstanding effort in my academics, for working hard enough to rank at the top of my class.  I am proud of my effort and value this success.   However, I believe that in order for anyone to truly appreciate success, he or she must also acknowledge the obstacles encountered on the journey there. 
If there is a running contest for most mistakes made in the teenage years, I am at least a semifinalist.   You are looking at a person who completely fell for the cafeterias April Fools Day menu of Liver and Onions.  A person who cannot dissect a worm without slicing deep enough to obliterate any value such a dissection holds.  I am also the one who, as a senior, failed to grasp a single word of the AP Physics exam.
 So, theres a sample of all that you havent heard.  And the rest? Honestly, it doesn't matter.  All the stumbles made during the climb to success are insignificant when the climber reaches his final destination.  Yet however insignificant such mistakes may be, they are vital in any path to a goal.
I believe that Thomas Edison put failures necessity into perspective best when he said,
                   I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I
 succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will
                   not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will
                   not work, I will find the way that will work.
What I have learned from my stumbles is that it is important for us to keep persevering, taking a lesson with us as we recover from each fall.  A low test grade should not compel us to give up as they say, it is not the end of the world.  Instead, it should inspire us to increase our effort, to succeed where we once failed.  Failure then, should not be looked upon as a dead end road, but rather as a detour, leading us another way.
Humanity has often traveled such a detour, chasing a dream to its completion despite troubles met along the way.  The graduating class of 2003 shall not be an exception.  We will meet adversity and fall countless times but it is up to us to choose our next step.  As Ben Stein said, The human spirit is never finished when it is defeated... it is finished when it surrenders.  The question is: which choice will we make?
Outside the walls of this building, people will not be as understanding about our failures.  They may scoff at our ignorance concerning Greek literature.  They may look down upon us because of our lack of knowledge regarding statistics.  They may reprimand us for our failure to label our TPS Reports.  But we must not be discouraged by their words just learn from them.  We must use their negative comments as motivation to improve ourselves.
When we do get discouraged and I am sure we will we might look back to our times in this high school, and remember everyone who made us who we are.  Remember our classmates, our teachers, our friends, our families.  These are the people that will always be there for us, regardless of what troubles we may face.
There was once a man who seemed to accomplish nothing but failure.  He failed in business at age 31 and again at 34.  He was defeated for Senate at 55 and 58, and failed to become vice president at 56.  But after striving to accomplish his dream and surmounting all these failures, at age 60, he became our countrys 16th president. 
I see graduates before me that will reach Lincoln-like success, but not without first surmounting all the obstacles lying before them.  I know we can do it our dreams are within our grasp. 
Unfortunately, we may not achieve every goal we set for ourselves.  However, we must never give up on our dreams, instead dedicating our lives to pursuing them, regardless of their attainability.  For as its been said time and again, If we shoot for the stars, well land in the clouds.  And the clouds, while not the stars we might have hoped for, are higher up from the ground from which we began.   
Graduates, whether we walk in the clouds, the sky, or somewhere in between, we must never stop reaching for our goals.  
Good night and God bless.