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Class of 2018: What comes next?

May 26, 2018 Comments off

Taking a break from taking a break from blogging to share my graduation speech from this week:

Teachers, principals, family, and friends, it’s good to see all of you. Without your support, it’s hard to imagine all of these graduates being here today with all they’ve accomplished. This graduating class will have an immediate impact on the future. They will cross the country in the next few months as college students, members of the military, and in pursuit of lofty career goals.

Tonight, we celebrate your accomplishments. We look forward seeing where you go. And we anticipate you coming back having built upon the foundation you’ve received over the last thirteen years.

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In his comedy, As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote that, “Time travels at different speeds for different people. I can tell you who time strolls for, who it trots for, who it gallops for, and who it stops cold for.”

As I look at this auspicious graduating class, I see a bunch of people who are galloping along with time. You’re eager to get to whatever it is that comes next. I completely understand. Your families and teachers have been telling you your whole life that we’re preparing you for the real world.

If you have a chance to see a theatrical performance a little more modern than Shakespeare, I can’t recommend the Broadway musical Hamilton highly enough. In terms of innovation, content, and memorability, it’s one of the most accomplished pieces of art ever.

Central to the conflict of the story is the contrast Lin-Manuel Miranda draws between two historical figures: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

In the opening song, Hamilton introduces himself, among other ways, by saying, “there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait.” He’s starved for experiences that will improve his opportunities and influence. He’s impatient. Later, at a critical moment in the early years of our Republic, Hamilton understands that the only way he can reach his goals is to find a way into “the room where it happens.”

On the other hand, Burr, who has similar aspirations in life, takes a far different approach. Prior to the Revolution, he advises Hamilton to “Talk less…smile more…don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”

Essentially, Hamilton sees what he wants and figures out what it takes to get it. He pursues his passions relentlessly. Burr knows what he wants, and he waits for it.

In truth, specific moments in life call for different mindsets. There are times that you know what you want, but you have to be patient. There are times that you know what you think, but you don’t want to offend anybody. Talk less, smile more.

Then there is a time to make sure that your voice is heard – to be in the room where it happens. If your goals include changing the world for the better, then you have no reason to delay getting in that room. Register to vote. Campaign. Show up for every election. Raise funds for a non-profit organization. Volunteer with organizations that solely focus on helping people. Devote your life to making people better every single day.

Some valuable things in life take a significant amount of time to achieve. Sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the goal itself. As you graduate today, two things are still true.

First is that high school has helped build you into who you are. Whether it was an endless streak of personal victories, a string of non-stop frustrations, or some combination of the two, the events of the last four years have left a mark on you.

The second truth is that your future is yet to be written. High school impacts where you are today, but this is only a starting point. Whatever you expect to become, or whatever others expect you to be, you’re the one who needs to be in control. There are a million things you haven’t done, but just you wait. Just you wait.

The next few months, the next year, the next decade – they’re all going to fly by in a blur. Rush towards the things that matter. Just don’t forget to soak in the unique moments you have with the people you meet.

Congratulations, and good luck, Class of 2018!

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