Graduation Speech 2014

Warning: This has nothing to do with sports!

This is a momentary digression from my sports journalism aspirations and a lapse into my personal life. I gave the welcome speech at my graduation for Coe-Brown Northwood Academy’s Class of 2014. Here is the text from that:


Good evening everyone, and welcome to Coe-Brown Northwood Academy for the graduation of the class of 2014. I’m betting some of you in the crowd this evening had to use a GPS or MapQuest to get here tonight. They’re awesome, right? It’s just so simple. You plug in point A and the desired point B and voila: different routes appear and you select the one you want. It tells you where to go and how best to get there with turn-by-turn directions.

Directions; something high school students know a bit about. Except high school is nothing like a GPS. No two graduates in front of you started at the same point A, not one of us was able to drive straight through without getting lost at least once, and there were no turn-by-turn directions. We had to make our own maps.

Coe-Brown helped us in crafting those maps: we always confronted challenges and learned lessons which extend beyond the classroom. We were present and attentive. We turned up for state testing, turned up for senior exit interviews, turned up for Graduation. You may ask, this class ‘Turns down for what?’. My answer to you would be: we turn down for nothing.

You have to be your own person, like when I wear my salmon suede shoes.They are too big for my feet and one day, while running to class to avoid a tardy, I tripped over them and fell into the classroom. I landed in a crumpled heap. I learned to laugh – along with my beloved classmates – at myself. However, one of my friends had turned his head and missed it. High school is like that. Working may complete tasks, but focusing too much on one thing can cause you to miss opportunities to laugh with good friends.

But sometimes missing things doesn’t just happen in an instant, it may happen every day.

Like these words: “millions of our years in minutes disappear.” They are painted on a mural which hangs in our tunnel. Even though every Coe-Brown student uses that tunnel, few stop to look up because they’re texting, talking to friends, or listening to music. I didn’t notice the quote was there until last week when I paused, realizing I’d never read them in my four years here. When I did read it, I saw the source to be one J. Hetfield. Investigating further, I found him neither a Greek philosopher nor a transcendentalist poet. I found James Hetfield – lyricist and lead singer for Metallica. I didn’t expect that. It’s like sitting down with a classmate you’ve never really talked to and having a conversation. There are people in this crowd who will surprise you with stories of valor or intrigue or heartbreak.

“Millions of our years in minutes disappear,” Hetfield sings. On nights with a difficult assignment, high school may have seemed like a million years, but as we sit here it seemed mere minutes for the sand to fall through the hourglass.

“Anything worth doing is hard work.” My father always tells me this. The diploma we will receive is more than a piece of paper. For some, it means access to college. For others, it is a last bit of schoolwork to show an employer;but for all, the diploma is a culmination of hard work. And while it will all be worth it to walk out the doors behind me, it will also be difficult; it will be the hard work of saying good bye. As we leave here tonight, we wish farewell to the people with whom we’ve created indelibly fond memories. We say goodbye to family.

As I talk about the end of this ceremony before it’s truly begun, I remember its human nature to focus on the next thing. But while we are here, fellow graduates, let us linger for just tonight. Pause. Stop thinking about the party after this, or summer vacation, or plans for the fall. Let the future be the future. Relish in the now. This moment should be fully lived. Though none of us began at the same point A, though none of us took the same route to get here, let us all finish walking across this stage together. Let us all finish at the same point B.


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