The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

June 9, 2014

Graduation speech revised: thoughts six years later

Monday, June 9, 2014 — When I graduated from high school in 2008, I had the opportunity to make a graduation speech.

I’ve been told it was good, (by more than just my family, I swear), but honestly I don’t remember much except a joke about the cafeteria’s notorious chicken sandwiches.

But with graduation right around the corner for many of our high schoolers, I decided I’d like to look at it again, to cringe or nod as my new experience dictates.

So with some help from my parents (aren’t you glad they save everything?), I was able to lay my hands on the little one sheeter.

This is the line that stuck out the most to me:

“I hope you’re burning for something more today. I hope that flame gets brighter every day. I hope that 10 years from now it’s a conflagaration and you’re glad you lit it in the first place.”

A bit starry-eyed, huh? I think when I wrote that I was aiming to be a best-selling author by 25; with one year to go, I think it’s safe to say I won’t meet that goal.

One of the smaller dissapointments, trust me.

You see, I’ve found out that fire burns. It hurts. Happiness is a fragile thing and flames, well, they destroy.

What I realize now is that I don’t mind.

I’m at peace with burns and smoke. It’s not happiness I’m after, it’s joy.

With that in mind, here’s what I’d say now:

So graduates, there you are. Facing the music (both literally and figuratively), “Pomp and Circumstance” calling you to that green football field with the inevitable pull of gravity.

Scared, relieved, fed up, excited. Everybody’s got a different way of looking at that march, that stage, that paper they hand you as you walk across.

(Symbolic scroll only, you know; the real thing is picked up at some inconspicuous back table or slipped into your mailbox when nobody is looking.)

Even you apathetic ones, unimpressed with baggy gowns and speeches that echo off bleachers, this moment is moving you, too, whether you admit or not. (An attitude is a choice after all.)

I will not be overly grandiose. That choice is not the first in a series of decisions that will define who you are (that started a long time ago). But maybe it’s the first time you’ve really thought about where those choices are taking you. The first measured glimpse of yourself as you could be.

My advice to you graduate: Stare it in the eye.

Because every choice has its consequence and every attitude has its sting.

Be scared and you’re always bound to another’s strength. Be relieved and you’ll find it’s never over. Be fed-up and you give up on possiblities. Be excited and you’ll find some things don’t live up to your expectations.

Realize that, graduate. Weigh the product against the price tag. What is it you want? What is it you’re willing to pay?

Because the biggest dangers you face now is becoming something you don’t want to be. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, college, job, marriage, the unknown, the slopes are always slick with easy and downhill is always the fastest way to go.

If you don’t take the time to look at yourself, you won’t even know if you’re sliding.

So stare it in the eye, graduate.

What do you see in yourself today? Who are you as you walk across that field, that stage?

If you fail a test (trust me, we all do), will you push harder?

If you take a job you don’t love (trust me, we all do), will you make plans for another?

If you find you don’t have time to get everything done (trust me, we all do), will you know what’s important and let the rest go?

Or will you just dither or mope when those decisions come. Ignore them until the moment is gone and you’ve lost the chance to prove yourself.

Because that’s what your choices are. The opportunity to prove yourself. Not to your parents, not to your peers, not to a boss or a company or a school (remember the actual diploma comes when nobody was looking), but to prove yourself to yourself.

A secret cruicible between you and God. To seize or to let go.

And so here’s your opportunity. A green football field, a stage. (An attitude is a choice after all.)

Stare it in the eye.

And then very consciously set one foot in front of the other (the first in a series that you now recognize as your own) and choose.

To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynewspress.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry's Sketch 7.16.14.tif They don’t give a darn for Duke University

    John “Duke” Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over trademark rights.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    WASHINGTON - For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content