Monday, May 21, 2007

Graduation Speech

This past weekend, I was invited to give the graduation address at Ellinwood High School, in Central Kansas. The principal there invited me after hearing me speak at a Kansas Honors Banquet. It was humbling, especially when I discovered one of the student speakers I had to follow was a 6-time state champion in forensics (i.e. public speaking). A tough act to follow.

Speaking to this generation is tough. Their sense of history is very different from mine. For instance, they've known nothing but war in their lifetimes, being born into the Gulf War. I struggled to think of the most significant events of the past ten years that were not tragedies- there were only a few. Still, this group brings more hope and optimism for change than the generations that preceded them. Expectations for the Class of 2007 are high. An excerpt from the opening of my speech is below:

And now seniors, the class of 2007, I want to address you for a while. After all, today is about you- and all about what’s next. But I’ve got news for you- yesterday was all about you too. And tomorrow… well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

It’s a lot to take in, with families in attendance, you’re sitting there with your friends, you’ve got after-parties to think about. I recognize the important role of the commencement speech- in that it will be forgotten as soon as I leave the stage. With apologies to Abraham Lincoln, who stated at Gettysburg: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” Still, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

Or perhaps it would be just as meaningful to quote another influential figure of modern history. As Ferris Bueller said, on the occasion of his momentous “Day Off:” “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Members of the graduating class, I implore you- on this day- to stop, and look around. Life does move pretty fast. And you don’t want to miss what’s next.

To read the entire speech, click here.

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