Perspective – A Graduation Speech

I graduated from high school in 1992. That was 18 years ago and is the birth year of many of our graduates who are now 18. Microsoft had just released Works – not Word – Works, and the first nicotine patch was introduced to help stop smoking. Popular films that year were Aladdin, The Bodyguard, and Wayne’s World. Television programs that were popular were Law & Order, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Simpsons. I guess some things don’t change. Other things have changed – a gallon of gas was only a $1.05. I remember that because I went on a cross-country road trip to Rhode Island to visit relatives.

I remember two things from my graduation day: I sat next to Mark Murdock – the star football player who I doubt knew my name. And a speech by my friend Meghan who talked about the Dr. Seuss book – Oh, the Places you will go. I have about five minutes to share something that I hope you will remember.

Looking back to 18 years ago, I know some things now that I didn’t know then. I thought I knew a lot, but I was wrong. I thought that my dreams and my success were the most important things in life. I wanted a lot of things, and I thought that it was all about me making them come true.

These graduates have a lot of hopes and dreams as well. They want to go to college, they want cars, homes, financial stability, jobs that they love. Graduates, you think you know a lot. And you do; I know many of you – and you do know a lot. But if you think that you are the only key to your own success, you are wrong.

What I’ve learned in the last 18 years is that the key to success is not in what you know but in who you know and how you treat them. My friends and family have cheered me on to every success that I have set out to accomplish. Without them, I would not be here today as the person that I am. My friends and family have taught me that the keys to success are kindness, patience, and self-control.

If you want to be successful, be kind to others. Treat them not as yourself but better than yourself. You need your friends, your family, and even the person at the Holiday store who takes your money. Smile more; complain less. Life from the perspective of kindness to others as well as yourself looks better. I have surrounded myself with role models and have allowed others in my life who are toxic or who pull me down to take a very minor role in my life. Surround yourself with others who believe in you, who give you good advice, and who cheer you on in kindness.

Have patience as well as self-control. Success comes in small packages. Each time you are faced with a decision, make the right good decision. Our small decisions determine our long term path. My husband has said that a person who murders another person usually does not wake up one day intending to murder. No criminal becomes a criminal overnight. Small decisions, poor decisions, or unguided decisions create the criminal. In the same way, the success that you want comes only after you have made a series of good decisions, and that requires patience. This is hard in our instant society. You can cook Ramen noodles in under three minutes, text your friends super fast, and receive your McDonald’s meal in three minutes or less from ordering to your mouth. Success requires us to wait for things and exhibit self-control. Buying that iPod today puts us that much farther from the car that we want tomorrow. Instant gratification is what we expect now, but success requires patience and self-control. Set goals and work towards them.

The people in my life over the past 18 yrs have been the kind of people that I want to be like, and I hope that I have made them proud because of the influence that they have had on me. When I look back on the past 18 yrs, I see growth in who I am, and I feel successful today because of what I see in those years. Our theme at Wolf Creek this year was “Any dream will do…”… As you look forward in your life – in the next 5 years, 10 years, 18 years…what dream will do for you? When you are 36 years old, what will you have to share with the graduating class that year? What dreams will have been accomplished? And what perspective will you have to share with them? When you wake up tomorrow morning, a graduate – class of 2010, what dream will you pursue?

In closing, dream those dreams. And remember that there are a bunch of women at Wolf Creek who are here to continue to dream with you, to support you as you move forward, and who hope to hear about those dreams that have been accomplished. Congratulations to each of you!

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