I am honored to be among the first to congratulate you on reaching this important milestone! What an exciting time this is for all of us! We have experienced enormous joy watching you grow and shine the last several years. No doubt the future holds a great deal of promise as you prepare to stretch out and move on to the next phase of your lives. I’m sure you are all eager to get out on your own, and in fact may be growing tired of listening to us tell you what to do. For your entire life, teachers and parents have told you how and where to stand, to pick up your rooms, finish your homework, and whether or not you have permission to go to the bathroom.
Indeed the days of us telling you what to do and how to do it are now coming to an end. Very soon, the curfews will also be over and you will be on your own. This is what you have all been waiting for! A world where parents and teachers no longer make the rules and the freedom to make your own decisions is just around the corner. I can vaguely remember thinking those things at my high school graduation—which was quite a long time ago by the way. All I really wanted was to move on with my life—to be on my own and not have to answer to anyone. Here is a newsflash though: You will always have to answer to someone!
Or perhaps, with that excited anticipation comes a little bit of fright. If not, then it should. Think about it. For the last thirteen years, your entire life has been scripted! This newfound freedom might be a little bit scary. Whenever you strayed a bit left of center we were there to help you regain your focus. We have been here to give you that gentle nudge whenever it was needed. In just a little while you are going to be working without a net!
During these formative years, you have learned many things. The concepts that you have grasped are too numerous to name here, but it is without a doubt impressive. Equally inspiring is that the level of knowledge you have attained pales in comparison to what most of us experienced in our formal K-12 educational experience. Further, I believe I would be accurate in stating that some of the most intelligent people in this room are those who are seated in the chairs directly in front of me today. You are ready, right? Let’s get on with it! Maybe you don’t need our help anymore?
Perhaps. But if you will indulge me a very brief trip down memory lane.
Many can remember that day in kindergarten when you ran up to your kindergarten teacher and asked for help tying your shoe. You kindergarten teacher gladly helped you tie that shoe, while also showing you (once again) how to do it for yourself.
Some parents in the audience will also recall staying up late to help you finish a project that was due the next day. You may have been too busy with other school activities and the time just got away from you—or you just put it off until the very end. It didn’t matter though; your parents were there to make sure you finished on time and without the penalty of After School Program.
Most recently, we were honored with writing letters of recommendation for your college applications, or giving you advice on the essay portion of the application, ensuring your answers were worded just right. We were also there with you as you waited in eager anticipation when the news came that you got the job, the program, or the college that you wanted. When you got the news you wanted, we rejoiced with you. When you didn’t, we shared your tears.
But now that it’s all over, maybe you don’t need our help anymore? The natural tendency for you right now is to flex those muscles of independence. You have achieved a major goal and will leave here momentarily with a diploma in hand to prove this very notable accomplishment.
Yet I hope you leave knowing that those who you have come to rely on for help will be here; when you need us to help lace your shoes, hold you accountable for the project deadline, write the letters of application, and be the shoulder to cry on when the going gets rough.
Throughout the course of my career I have come to understand that I most certainly do not have the answers to all the questions that arise throughout the course of my life. While it is true that many people may come to rely on me to have all these answers—from Board Members, and employees, to co-workers, colleagues, wife and family; my secret is this—I do not have all the answers! The truth is that no one in this room has all the answers to the problems that plague us. We must rely on one another for advice, friendship, and counsel to the questions that keep us awake at night.
You will be faced with the unknown. It may be just a few short months from now in a college course that is a bit more challenging than you expected it to be, or it may be twenty years from now when you are confronted with a life changing decision. You leave here with the skill set to meet those challenges. We are all very confident in your abilities to be Problem Solver. However, nowhere in our expectations are you expected to meet these challenges alone and without counsel.
My wish for you is that you don’t burden yourself with the unrealistic expectation that you have to know it all. Share in my secret! If the question is too hard, or you just don’t know the answer to the puzzle that you are faced with, please by all means ask for help. Your parents and teachers will be here for you, whether you think you us or not. You will always be a Pirate!