My Commencement Address

Finish this statement:  Success is….  In just a few days, students across our area will don the traditional robe, mortar board, and tassel and make their way across the stage to receive their high school diplomas.  Graduation is a joyous time to celebrate the milestone of academic achievement.  It’s also a time for family and friends to gather to show the graduates how proud they are of what they’ve accomplished.  Of course no graduation is complete without a great speech.  Commencement speeches are meant to be inspiring and empower the graduate to run out of the door and chase their dreams.  Many of them are filled with clichés and lies too.


I remember my high school graduation speaker referring to us as a  “silver spoon generation”.  She said we wouldn’t have to work as hard as those before us with the addition of computers and other technological advances.   It’s been nearly 25 years since I graduated high school.  I agree my generation probably didn’t have to work as hard as baby boomers and those generations before us, but I don’t recall any silver spoons being tossed about either.  


Sure its a different world today than it was even 25 years ago.  My advice to the Class of 2014 is best summed up in Charles Sykes’ book Dumbing Down our Kids. In the book Sykes discusses how feel-good teaching has created a generation of kids with no concept of reality.  Which is why he believes many of them fail after high school.  He lists several rules which I believe are guidelines for anyone entering the “real world.”  I added a few of my own comments to his rules.   


  1. Life is not fair.  


My mother always said fair is how you describe a woman’s complexion or the weather…not life!


2.  The world won’t care about your self-esteem.  The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.  


3.  You will not make 40-thousand dollars a year right out of high school.  


Only well-diggers start at the top.  Start at the bottom, pay your dues, and work your way up.  If you don’t make it, its OK.  Bloom where you’re planted!


4.  If you think your teachers are tough, wait til you get a boss. 


My first boss didn’t seem to care about my lack of sleep, family obligations, or other personal issues like my teachers did.  He believed everyone should give a full days work in order to receive a paycheck.     


5.  Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping, they called it “opportunity”.  


Taking chances is crucial.  Too many people are afraid to take a chance or get out of their comfort zone.  Successful people take action on the opportunities they’re given.   




6.  If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.  


Listen to people’s stories.  Everyone has a story.  You may learn something if you take time to listen.   


7. Life is not divided into semesters.  You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself”.  Do that on your own time.  


8.  Be nice to nerds, chances are you’ll end up working for one.  


So to the Class of 2014, I say work hard, don’t expect lots of compliments either.  Give 100% to anything you set your hands to.  If you’re passionate about waiting on people, be the best waiter at the restaurant.  Lastly, success is overrated.  Fame and money won’t make you happy.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, or even unemployed, discipline, hard work, and being kind to those around you will give you a level of satisfaction like no other.  Congratulations, enjoy the journey! 




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