Monday, June 25, 2012

My Commencement Speech

Last Wednesday, we celebrated our sixth graders who will move to middle school next year.  I had the opportunity to give a speech at their moving on ceremony.  Below is a transcript of what I said:

            I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to say to you today.  Here it is: Choose your friends wisely.  This is more important than any other advice I can give you.
George Washington once said, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”  How do you find good company?  Pursue your passions.
            Some of you are musicians.  You play an instrument or you sing.  You’ve already signed up for music classes next year.  You are going to find that belonging to a music group, having to work together as a team will encourage you to get better at your goals.
            Some of you are athletes.  You come alive on the court or the track or the field.  You will keep your grades up, because it will keep you on the team.  You will also find like-minded people who will encourage you.
            Some of you are artists, actors, writers which may seem like solo activities, but it helps to have friends who enjoy the same interests.  You will find that you can support each other and become better at your craft.
            There are other passions you may have: math, science, technology, history, photography, medicine, animals.  Each of these passions comes with a community of people that can become good company for you, but don’t be afraid to stand alone.
            There are unhealthy interests that also have communities that may seem like a place to belong.  If you hang out with people who drink and do drugs, it is likely you will do the same.  If you hang out with people who want to be in a gang, it is likely you will adopt the same influences.  This is the time to stand apart from the crowd and avoid bad company.  In the 21 years I have been teaching, all of the students who accomplished good things, found positive people to be with.  The ones who got into serious trouble started with who they chose to be around.  Choose your associates wisely. 
            There was a man named W. Clement Stone who had a difficult childhood.  His father died when he was 3.   He started selling newspapers when he was 6.  By 13 he had his own newsstand.  When he became an adult, he became a successful business man and author.  He was able to give $275 million to others in need.  I want to close with his words:
“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you;
Be careful of the friends you choose for you will become like them.”
Choose wisely.  Thank you.

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