Whether you are graduating from middle school or high school, college or graduate school, graduation is a joyous time in your life and you and your families should be proud of what you have accomplished.
Enjoy your new found freedom and the summer break you anticipated since entering the classroom last fall, you deserve it. But, during your absence from the classroom, I ask you take a few minutes to reflect on your journey these last few years. Although you can not change the past, there is much you can learn from it in order to be better prepared for that which has yet to be determined.
In my hasty exit from high school and college, I failed to adequately reflect on my lessons learned. Although I was aware that I had grown as a person, years would pass before I would fully comprehend and appreciate the knowledge and experience that I had gained during my passage. If I had taken time to reflect on my experience, I would have been much more confident and far less likely to repeat the same mistakes that had been made in the past.
During this time of reflection, some of you may think of your stay as a positive experience while others think of theirs’ as negative and forgettable. Some, at least for the time being, may choose not to reflect on their stay at all. Or, perhaps like me, others may have mixed feelings as they seek their next endeavor. However, when evaluating your overall experience, please keep in mind we learn from all experiences whether they were pleasant or distasteful, and the more experience we acquire, the wiser and more interesting and intelligent we become.
School provides us with the opportunity to experience life in a well structured protective environment, a setting which enables us to learn by trial and error while cohabitating with our peers, the best sounding board of all.
As a student, you were exposed to both uninspiring and outstanding administrators, instructors and peer leaders. You were required to properly arrange and allocate your time, while performing to the best of your ability under, at times, very tedious and difficult conditions. Where else could you be tested in such a manner, and at such a young age without serious consequence? Believe me when I say many of the seemingly trite, demanding, and meaningless activities you experienced did prepare you to confront and deal with many of life’s uncertainties.
I am sure that during your journey, a good number of you were mentored by an upperclassman, and in return reciprocated by doing the same for an underclassman in your charge. And most of you, if not all, were befriended by various members of your staff and faculty. And, whether it be on the field of competition, in the realm of extra curricular activity, or in the classroom, you often functioned as one for somewhere deep inside, you and your fellow students knew you were in it together, for, whether you wanted to be or not, you understood you were part of something bigger than yourself. This type of fellowship should not be forgotten for camaraderie provides invaluable support as you pass through life.
When you do reflect back on these last few years, you will think not just of the good times, but of the bad, not just of what you succeeded in, but of what you fell short in, and not just of those who impressed you, but of those who failed to meet your standards. This is all part of the learning process.
I would like to tell you as you go forward, that the opportunities that lie ahead are boundless, and that your formal education and hard work, will guarantee a place at the top of your chosen vocation. But, you and I both know that your journey will not be an easy one. We live in a far different world than my classmates and I when we graduated in the ‘60s. In the sixties, corporations expected your loyalty, and in return, provided life long employment with funded pension and healthcare plans. Global warming, globalization, and outsourcing were unknown terms, and, therefore, of no concern, and terror was something experienced in the movie theater.
Some of you will enter college or graduate school, and others the work force or, unfortunately, because of today’s dismal economy, the unemployment line. Some of you will be discriminated against because you are too young, because you are too short or too tall, because you are under qualified or over qualified, or because of your gender, weight, social standing, and even the color of your skin. Please believe me when I tell you that your success in life will depend far less on your intellect than it will on your ability to overcome life’s obstacles and uncertainties.
So, what demeanor and skills do you posse that will provide the competitive difference. Ask yourself these twenty one Questions.
1. Do you have the attributes that make one a leader, and, can you easily recognize them in others?
2. Have you learned from your mistakes?
3. Do you plan to continuously further your education?
4. Do you have a decent work ethic?
5. Can you work under stressful and adverse conditions?
6. Do you know how to present, and represent yourself?
7. Do you get along with others under the best and worst of conditions?
8. Are you able to recognize admirable traits in others?
9. Do you realize that no one can be expected to believe in you unless you have confidence in yourself?
10. Do you show restraint when provoked, and patience when dealing with those who differ from you in talent and opinion?
11. Can you avoid conflict when possible, but know how to select the proper time and place to take a stand when not.
12. Are you able to show discretion so as to not offend or embarrass others?
13. Do you know when to engage, and when to disengage?
14. Have you learned that you can often benefit more from your failures than from your successes?
15. Are you intolerant of injustice and discrimination in any form?
16. Can you admit when you are wrong in your actions, get over it, and move on?
17. Do you realize that living and learning are inseparable?
18. Can you integrate wisdom and experience with compassion and understanding?
19. Do you recognize that compassion toward your fellow man is an admirable virtue and not a sign of weakness?
20. Do you believe that no other person has the right to tell you that you do not have the talent or skill to perform a task?
21. Do you sincerely believe that without dignity, honor, and integrity you have nothing? If you can say yes to most of these than you have learned your lessons well for you are far more prepared than most. This is what differentiates you from others and makes you incredibly marketable.
But enough of the realities check. This is your time. Take pleasure in the moment. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, you deserve it. Remember, commencement is a beginning. This new beginning is your defining moment, a time when you can commit to make the most of your life. So, make the most of it. You don’t want to become one who despondently looks back in 50 years and says, should of, could of, would of.
Above all, I want you to remember those who love you and made this commencement possible, your parents and family. They are the ones who will continue to support you when others turn their back. They are the ones who will stand by you no matter how badly you stumble. They are the ones who provide you with incredible opportunities, and they are the ones we most often take for granted.
Please remember that nothing in life is free. Someone dear to you had to work very hard to give you this opportunity and this very special day.
Unlike any other species on this planet, we, in most cases, have the ability to determine how we are going to live our lives. The best way you can show your appreciation to your loved ones is by being the best you can possibly be, and by being passionate in your every endeavor. Show passion toward those you love. Show passion toward your fellow man, especially toward those less fortunate than yourselves. Show passion in your work. And, show passion in your love for your country so that others will one day say of you, you lived a full and rewarding life, and you lived it with great passion.
I and the entire staff of Marco Eagle wish you and your families only the best this very special day, and we hope that each of you live a healthy, prosperous, productive, exciting, and fulfilling life.