Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Words of Wisdom for the #ClassOf2012!

For many reasons, I feel a special tie to this year's graduating class of high school seniors. Between three different high schools where I have taught, roughly 500 students who I have had in my short career are in this year's senior class all graduating at the same time. This year also marks my ten year high school reunion and I am lucky enough currently to be teaching at the same high school from which I graduated, Grosse Pointe North.

It was four years ago that I started teaching freshmen physics in Fountain Hills; those students are now graduating. It was three years ago that I taught sophomore chemistry at L'Anse Creuse; those students walk the stage this year. And it has been the last two years that I have taught junior and senior chemistry and physics at Grosse Pointe North (my Alma mater); all of those students together will graduate this year. 

The class of 2012 is one that I feel I know fairly well and am proud to see walk the stage. I wanted to do something special for this class, and so I have prepared a graduation speech for the #ClassOf2012. This speech is special to me, and I hope it will be meaningful to this year's senior class.

Before I present to you the speech, a little background on these words of wisdom. The role of student commencement speaker was traditionally given to the valedictorian, the top-ranking academic in the class, who would deliver a valedictory--the commencement address. The year I graduated from high school, a new tradition was started where students auditioned their speeches to a panel of peers, faculty, and community members who selected the speaker. I was encouraged by my senior English teacher to write a speech and try out for the part. I heeded the advice and was chosen to give the commencement address by the panel. I practiced and practiced my speech delivery, pacing my words, projecting my voice, and emphasizing the important parts of my message.

Then, it was on a sunny evening, ten years ago, that I had the honor to share my message with my graduating peers, faculty, administrators, and the community. It was a very special honor to me and from what I can recall, the message was well received.

And so, class of 2012, I present to you this message, the very same message that I presented to the class of 2002 as high school comes to a close. Hopefully, you will find the inspiration from these words that it is intended to have.

Commencement Address
A song by the Dave Matthews Band once asked, "where are you going?" This question is appropriate for the time at hand, but also exemplary of the questions you should be asking yourselves now.
No one thing can determine your destiny, it is instead the result of a summation of many factors; thus, finding an answer to the question of where you are going is a difficult task. Every individual must construct his or her own answer. Before you can respond to this question of where you will go, you must first determine where you can go; where you want to go. Only you know the answers to these questions. It is your world that you exist in, take charge of it.
The key to any success is perseverance, patience, and determination. As advice to the youth of his time, the celebrated author Samuel Clemens wrote:
"If a person [offends] you and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch for your chance and hit him with a brick."
A powerful message, though dressed in sadistic humor, that if things do not go your way, which sometimes they will not, that you need not act in an irrational manner or jump to conclusions; rather, weather the storm, you'll eventually get compensation for your effort.
You know, too many people worry about the trivialities of life, but those who look past these pot holes in the road are the ones who will arrive at their destination first. You should live for yourself, no one else. Do things that make you happy, because in the long run, don't you want to be doing something you enjoy?
Do not lose track of your goals in life, let yourself fall short of any aspirations, or let anyone dissuade your beliefs. Be diligent with your work ethic, temperate with your leisure and always conscious of those around you who have helped you and inspired you. When in doubt, a call home can usually remedy the situation. But at the same time, you must learn to make decisions for yourselves, pedal on your own.
Class of 2012, today you are being given a new block of clay with which to shape your future. This block can be shaped in any way that you can conceive; however, you must first realize that you are the one making the sculpture; you are the artist.
Seize the day, class of 2012! Do not let opportunities pass you by; they are the ones driving the red sports cars and traveling faster than you. Ask yourself: what do I want to do with my life? What kind of person am I? What kind of person do I want to be? What changes need to be made? Times are different now that you have graduated, you have to do things for yourselves. You make your future what you want it to be. Since each thing in the world today has been made by an individual who wanted to make it, who's to say that you can't make what you want happen?
Those who command the respect of others will be tomorrow's leaders; those who command the admiration of others will be tomorrow's heroes; and those who command the space shuttle will be tomorrow's astronauts. At any rate, there are essential necessities for your success: being respected before being liked; looking beyond superficiality before casting judgements; assessing the merit of all things that you come across before holding them in high regard; patience before impetuousness; and finally, integrity before vanity. In all that you do in life, look at the big picture and try to comprehend all that you see; do not let your predilections blind you to new things. There is a wonderful world of endless knowledge out there. You only get one life to experience it, why not make the most of that opportunity?
You have all accomplished many things in the mandatory part of your educational careers, but what will you do from here? The answer: anything. Anything you want to do can be done, it is all at your fingertips, but you have to realize this. You have to realize what it takes to accomplish what you want. If you want to be a doctor, go to medical school; if you want to be a lawyer, go to law school; if you want to be an engineer, go to engineering school; or, if you want to go and hunt for the Sasquatch, then go learn forensic science and pursue your quest! The only thing is that you must realize that you can do anything. Anything, class of 2012, you can make it happen. It's just up to you where you are going.