Thursday, June 20, 2013

Commencement 2013

Good evening parents, distinguished guests, faculty, and students.

Ok, students, the good news is I am the last person standing between you and your diploma; the bad news is I am going to give a [long] speech. Here we go…

Graduation is often said to be the end of a chapter and the start of a new. When preparing for tonight, I sat down at the keyboard knowing that I had a tough task ahead considering the amazing students speaking before me. I knew they would set the standard fairly high [and you did not disappoint]. I will offer my first tip – know yourself well, so no one else will ever be able to define you! With that said, I knew I could not compete with Marquis’s million-dollar smile, nor could I compete with Jesse’s locks of thick-dark hair or his smooth ‘Barry White’ delivery, nor could I come close to Ms. Sockwell’s elegance, and well lets face it, JJ is just cool, so with these realities staring at me, I thought what could I possibly offer this group, how might I leave an impression on them as this chapter ends? What could I possibly say that might help them as they begin the next chapter?

After realizing [“I had nothing”], I turned to today’s Wizard of Oz, “Twitter” and I entered the search “#commencementspeeches” in hopes of finding someone out there who could help me deliver some sound advice to you today. [Tip two – collaborate with others] Thank goodness for Twitter, there are lots of people who have advice, so here’s the best of what I found:

Richard Branson (CEO Virgin Empire) says spend your time doing whatever you are passionate about in life! Be ambitious as there probably won’t be another time in your life when you have such freedom of opportunity.

Spencer Rascoff (CEO of Zillow) offers this “work really hard, seriously hard, as there is no substitute for hard work especially at the start of your adult life. He says, ‘don’t be the [punk] who plays Angry Birds’ all day long’ instead he says work hard. He also encourages all of you to find a mentor – someone who has been successful in pursuing their passions and latch onto them for advice and guidance.

Maria Shriver says “don’t be afraid to be afraid” courageous people are often afraid – and since I am not necessarily a big Maria Shriver fan I offer this from the Game of Thrones, Lord Edark Stark said “the only way you can be brave is to be afraid otherwise you wouldn’t need to be brave” [Tip 3 get out of your comfort zone – if you aren’t afraid once in awhile you are probably playing it too safe]

Since I used Twitter to help write this speech, let me offer this advice regarding social media…use it wisely! [When your parents and I were young – and yes we were once young- we could make our mistakes boldly and without fear that someone would put it on Facebook, Flicker, Twitter… yes there actually was a time without the Internet] Since we now live in the A.I era, [after internet] please, pay close attention to your activity so that you will be “Googled well” or “Binged” well [depending on your choice of search engine], because your future employers will “Google” you! Take advantage of social media to make smart connections – this is a brave new world where you can have access to almost anyone – even the Pope “Tweets” after all. So start a blog, use your voice, and share your big ideas with others!

[Tip 4] Fail often and with your head held high! You will fail from time to time, and that is ok, actually, I strongly recommend it. It is in your failures that you will learn the greatest lessons, you will learn how to handle adversity, and you will test your limits. Likely, you will learn that you are much stronger than you thought.

President Barack Obama recently offered this to graduates, He said, “We’ve got no time for excuses. In today’s hyper-connected, hyper competitive world, with millions of young people from China – India –Brazil – and around the globe, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them now entering the global workforce alongside you, the President warns that nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was, nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination”.

While his words feel a bit harsh and out of place for today’s celebration, I feel his message is important to hear – this new world, the ‘real world’ as many of you have called it tonight, it is now flat and connected in ways that previous generations never imagined. Therefore, you must work for what you want! There are no free passes- so if you had a tough upbringing – use it to motivate you, if you have struggled - use the lessons learned during your struggle to be exceptional – to be distinct!

I urge all of you, to do, whatever you do, for no reason other than you love it, and believe in its significance! Starting right now, promise yourself that you are going to pursue your passion – define the things you love to do, and work at them – perfect them- put in your 10,000 hours of practice [which is what the experts say it takes to truly master something]

Be grateful that you can read! – Thank your teachers for that little gift. Read- Read – Read and then read some more, read for enjoyment, read to learn something new, READ simply because you can

Develop a strong moral character – Seize the day as if your pants were literally on fire because none of you – none of us – are promised any more time than we have right at this very moment.
Do not wait for inspiration to find you – get off the couch, get out there, explore the world and find it yourself – and once you find it - hold onto it like Frodo & the ring of power!

Remember, a rewarding life is the gratifying consequence of living for your passions. It happens while you are doing the things you love just because you love them. Despite whether you are graduating at the top or the bottom of the class, whether you received awards Monday night or not, regardless of the journey you have taken so far, take comfort that you can decide today – RIGHT NOW - to be whatever you want!

So here you sit, all wearing the same uniform and are about to receive a high school diploma – which aside from your name is exactly the same as the person sitting next to you. Think of this as a new starting point and this wonderful celebration a breather along your pursuit of happiness. For those award winners Monday night - Well done! But do not rest on the feeling of self-satisfaction as your journey continues!

Congratulations – make your own good luck, and live the life you were destined to live!

Now it is my pleasure to certify that each and every student assembled here this evening has fulfilled the requirements for graduation that were instituted by the Millville Board of Education and the State of New Jersey.

Therefore, I am honored to recommend this Class of 2013 for the awarding of diplomas!