A Commencement Speech at Graduation
I recently attended my grandson's graduation ceremony (from a two year college). I was not overly interested in what the key speaker had to say, and wondered what I would do in her position. Obviously I will never be asked to give a commencement speech since I hold no degrees, am not a successful business entrepreneur, nor am I a famous personality. However, I am a parent and grandparent and I worked in the educational field for 18 years and have learned a thing or two.
If I were to write a commencement speech I would certainly do a lot of research because writing a commencement speech is no easy task. There are links all over the Internet on how to write a commencement speech that include; how to write a graduation speech, writing a commencement speech that doesn't bore college grads, advice to commencement speakers, and so on and so on. Would I use these resources or depend on my own?
Writing a commencement speech seems easy at first but there are lots of things to consider. For example, your audience. Granted you are speaking to the graduates, but what about the college professors, parents and guests who are listening to this speech as well. You don't want to talk down to anyone nor do you want to talk over their heads. Thanks to technology if you do happen to bore the graduates they'll just whip out their cell phones and start texting.
If I were to write a commencement speech, let's say for a two year college graduation after the proper greetings to all present it would go something like this:
Ten years from now you will not remember me nor my speech, but I'm really hoping you will remember one or two things that I say to you today just as you remember things that happened here during your two year stay. You are now college graduates....yes, graduates. You have completed your two years and you are about to leave with a 'degree'. A credentialed individual. Going to a two year college near home gave you the advantage of not having to spend money on housing while still getting the college experience, well mostly.
This is not the end nor is it the beginning. It is another dot on the timeline that is your life. You know the dots, when you took your first step, when you started school, when you went to high school, when you had your first kiss, when you graduated from high school and when you started college. Obviously I have omitted a lot of the dots in your life but I think you get the idea. You are adding dots to that timeline with everything you do and now new dots will be added whether it is to further your education or begin a career.
You can look at famous people and see where some of their dots lie...for example, look at the world's most famous college dropouts; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, James Cameron, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tom Hanks. I only tell you this now because you're graduating. These men are more the exception than the rule but they prove that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Of course there are many famous and rich people who are college graduates, the multi-billion dollar, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, billionaire investor Warren Buffet; Massachusetts Institute of Technology has 11 billionaire alumni, Harvard's hall of billionaires is more than double that of Stanford, which has 25 10-figure alumni. Get the picture?
As Dr.Seuss once said, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.”
And that's what it's all about, today, and all the days you spent in college, "where to go". While you're deciding do not be afraid to dream or to imagine. Each day is a new adventure and no one knows what the next day will bring. When you see an opportunity don't let it go by, grab it! Every opportunity leads to another. Of course no one wants to start out small but Bill Gates didn't start out owning the Microsoft we know today.
Don't forget your family and friends. No matter where you go or what you do they will always be there for you if you treat them well. "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." C. S. Lewis
Take a minute, right now. Stop and look at the person sitting to your right. Now look at the person sitting to your left. Look around at all the faces of your fellow graduates. They have been your friends and colleagues for the past two years. Some of them will be lifelong friends, some you will never see again after today, but each of them has been a part of your life for the past two years. Hold them dear in your memory and always be willing to help them out as a friend, no matter when it may be.
You have graduated in tough economic times. Nothing is going to come easy to you. You are a generation who may not do better than your parents, something that's happening for the first time in American history. A tough or bad economy affects your life in ways you don't even dream about . It affects not just your ability to get a job but whether or not you'll be able to keep the job you get. You find yourself cutting back on things like gasoline or maybe even electric or heating oil. You may have to learn to make do with what you've got or you can make something of it turn and your 'disadvantage' into an 'advantage'. Create something new or a new way of doing something old. If you don't believe me read about the Depression and how people survived it and some actually thrived. You can too. Did you know the chocolate chip cookie was invented during the Depression? How about the game of Monopoly or the car radio? I tell you these things to help you realize you are going to be challenged but you can meet and even exceed that challenge after all, you're a college graduate! Have faith in yourself and what you do.
College enrollment has increased elevenfold since 1940, from 1.5 million to 17.9 million. I guess the news is out, with a college degree you can make more money, have more job opportunities, and, are you ready for this? It is said college graduates have longer life spans.
You are those college graduates, all of these things are yours....family, friends, more money, better jobs and longer lives!!! Woo who! When does it start? That's the tricky part. No one knows for sure. What you do know is "You are the guy who'll decide where to go." And don't forget all those college graduate billionaires.
You grew up with Harry Potter and his ability to face any situation and draw on his inner strength. "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry faces every challenge and finds a way through. From the time he was only a small 12 year old until the last installment Harry fights his inner demons as well as Valdemort. He doesn't have a lot of money but he gets his education and depends on his friends to get him through. He finds his way and decides where to go. Be courageous like Harry, don't be afraid to fight your battles and make your life better whenever you can.
I've bounced around a bit in my speech but then things bounce around in life too. You've been living your life for over eighteen years with lots of guidance and people telling you what to do, now you start making your own decisions. Remember what you've been taught and the good direction your life has been taking. Keep on that path and never give up. Nothing is impossible, decide where to go!
Let me know what you think about this speech...leave a comment. I should probably keep my day job ;)
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