Before I begin, I just want to take a moment to say thank you, to my amazing teachers and to my ceaselessly supportive parents and family. A special shoutout to my family members who have come from so far out of town to see me graduate today: You guys mean everything to me, and I certainly would not be here without your support- and I'm sure all of us out here tonight can express the same feelings towards all of our families. Could we have a round of applause for our families and supporters?
Fellow students, parents, teachers, staff, Dr. Green:
It is an honor to be here tonight, and to have but a brief moment to share my thoughts with all of you. In writing a speech for this momentous occasion, I originally went through countless iterations, each fairly lacking inspiration, being mostly composed of hackneyed bits of advice spit out like candies from a Pez dispenser. Now, I haven't done away with all of the clichés — after all, many of those perennial bits of knowledge are told so often precisely because they are true, and are worth repeating and remembering. But I have realized that, in many respects, the keys to writing a speech worth giving are the same keys to leading a life worth living. Be genuine. Be heartfelt. Care about the people who you are interacting with.
Learn to trust your intuition, and rely upon common sense — fancy rhetorical tricks are great for impressing bookish types like me, but not always so spectacular at speaking to the heart. Above all, cultivate a vision of who you want to be and what you want to stand for, and proclaim it from the mountaintops no matter how many critics you attract or what kind of opposition you face.
I'll say it again: if there's one thing you take from my rambling four minutes up on this podium, let it be this: in the race of life, it is not skill, nor intelligence, nor strength, nor money, nor looks, nor any other similar factor that wins the prize: it is knowing who you are and who you want to be, and having the courage to stick to the path that will get you there.
Too often in our world we substitute the pursuit of happiness and the honest satisfaction of our souls for the gleaming baubles of wealth, fame, prestige, and glory. In thinking of this, I'm reminded of the words of my dad: "Son," he said, and I paraphrase, "you know that I want you to be successful. But I want you to understand what I consider success to be. To be successful is to be happy — so whether success to you is being a gardener or being a CEO, I want you to do everything you can to be successful."
So my fellow graduates, what I have to say to you tonight is this: now is the time. Pick a path to happiness, and go at it. If you want to be a gardener- go be one. If you want to be a journalist, go be one. If you want to be a firefighter, or a small business owner, or a doctor go be one, and do not ever ever ever ever ever think that you aren't good enough, or successful enough, or prestigious enough, or anything enough because of your choice. Because if you're living your life in a way that brings you happiness, and you're being a supportive member of your family, and you're making the world around you a happier and more peaceful place, then quite frankly you understand what life is all about. In the spirit of this theme, Albert Einstein once praised those who "strove not to be a success, but rather to be of value." My friends, I plead with you: do not take the value of this life of yours for granted. Do all that you can to be happy and productive in your career, to make your friends and family feel loved, and to develop the talents and abilities that are uniquely yours, because no one else can do these things. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are insignificant, and do not let your potential for adding to the sum total of human happiness go to waste.
So that's it. That is what I have to say to you tonight, genuinely from the depths of my heart. I would also admonish you to become involved in something greater than yourself, to cherish those closest to you so that you might have a buoy in times of trouble, and to view life with gratitude towards the past, with content in the present, and with hope towards the future. I would advise you to be optimistic, even if it seems excessive or unrealistic at times, because an optimistic attitude is absolutely essential for success.
All these pieces of advice and many more I would freely offer to you, but at the end of the day I can only accomplish so much by standing up here and rattling off life quotes I found on the internet. For the most part; the things we learn in life we are going to learn ourselves, through the grizzled instructors of the hard-knock school of life experience.
So really, the most I can do is to offer my sincere congratulations for what you have accomplished here tonight. Through the multitudes of milliseconds spent completing assignments and the countless late night cram sessions (very much like the one in which I wrote this speech,) we have been through it all, together, as Skyline Coyotes. And though our futures may take us far away from one another, this we will always be, and these memories we will always keep. This is a joyous moment, so grab hold of it, cherish it, and remember it when you are in need of hope and inspiration for the future. Skyline graduating class of 2014, I am beaming with pride for you tonight, because your very presence on this field heralds a world of possibilities for your future. Congratulations. Now go, and become the person you have always wanted to be.
Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America, and congratulations.