My school, Apex Homeschool Enrichment Program, asked me to present the graduation speech this year. Since this was my last year of teaching these great students, it made the speech even more touching to say to them. I thought you might be interested in reading it. 🙂
Members of the graduating class of 2016, Apex students, teachers, parents and friends:
Thank you for asking me to make the graduation speech today. I must admit, although I teach public speaking, this is only the second time I have been asked to make a speech of this type–the first occasion was two years ago here at Apex. I guess that you are gluttons for punishment…..
First, I would like to show you my high school graduation photo.
Recently, I found this photo and marveled at how much time has passed since 1974. I’m very aware of time. I have to be in teaching and directing plays. But even I find it incredulous. Wasn’t that yesterday? And I see that my clothes in the photo are now considered “vintage”. Sigh….
So, a graduation speech—Hmmm. What intelligent thought can I say today? I like this one and it’s not mine. I’m not proud.
The Comedian Andy Samberg said, “You are graduating from high school. That means that this is the first day of the last day of your life. No, that’s wrong. This is the last day of the first day of school. Nope, that’s worse. This is a day.”
Novelist Chang-Rae Lee stated, “I don’t believe complete assimilation is possible, at least not for anyone who has an active, open mind. Every step, every entry into the flows of existence can be seen as a beginning, a commencement of a brand new way of seeing oneself in the world. This is the case for everyone.”
I agree with Andy Samberg that “This is a day.” AND at the same time I agree with Chang-Rae Lee. To me, graduation is merely another step in your life’s development. They are all important steps and usually no one even thinks about them, because we have completely assimilated some “graduations”. Let’s see if you agree:
- The day you are born
- The day you learn to crawl
- The day you learn to walk
- The day you learn to feed yourself
- You say “Mama” and Dada” for the first time
- Recite the alphabet in the correct order
- Tie your shoe
- Spell your name and write it
- Ride your bike
- Have all your materials for class, including a Ticonderoga pencil (ahem…)
- Use the kitchen garbage disposal without chewing up Mom’s silverware in it
- Make your own hot meal (not a TV dinner or Mac n Cheese)
- Research some topic on the internet without being distracted by cute cat videos?
- Wash your own clothes
- Dry your own clothes
- Iron your own clothes? (I understand some people don’t even own an iron)
- Light a candle (that was a biggie for me—I was scared to death of the flame for some reason)
- Agreeably baby sit your siblings or neighbor kids
- Be employed in a job
- Open a personal bank account
- Monetarily provide for yourself
- Pay a bill
- Always wear clean underwear
- Fix a flat tire
- Fill the car with gasoline
- Drive the family car
- Drive fast in the family car
- Learn to drive carefully in the family car and smile when your father reminds you that “There’s a stop sign ahead so you need to brake soon.”
Then there are other “commencements” in your life, real life ones, that we forget about, but are just as important!
Real Life Commencements
You have also graduated when you can:
- Accept a compliment
- Accept criticism
- Swallow your pride, and admit fault when you’ve made a mistake
- Display patience in busy traffic
- Display patience in a chaotic situation
- Pretty much, just display PATIENCE
- Introduce your grandparents or a newcomer to your friends
- Stand up for someone when others are bullying him
- Make a promise and stick to it
- Keep a secret
- Hand write a thank you note (NOT an email, thank you very much….)
- Show respect to others
- Offer to help someone in need
- Volunteer for a service organization
- Register to vote and Vote!
- Propose to your future wife (or husband—it does happen. Just ask me—I proposed first to Mr. Baldwin)
- Tell someone you love them and mean it
And finally and maybe the most important:
- Accept yourself for who you are
Carol Burnett suggested that, “We don’t stop going to school when we graduate.”
Isn’t she correct about that? Ask your elders. Take the time to ask them what they have learned about themselves since they graduated from high school.
We keep learning and growing, sometimes fearfully and sometimes excitedly. But we persist, regenerating ourselves in life, shifting and adjusting, and hopefully acting upon what we learn in a positive manner. That’s what matters most. We don’t need any more people who think life is against them when it is themselves they are fighting with, not their brother.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we persevere through absorbing, studying and sometimes cramming life’s “graduations” with a hope to excel many, many times.
As you leave today think about what Andy Shue, actor and entrepreneur considers important at graduation, “Life is the most exciting opportunity we have. But we have one shot. You graduate from school, and that’s it. You’re going out of that nest. And you have to find that courage that’s deep, deep, deep in there. Every step of the way.”
Be courageous Class of 2016 and good luck!