It’s a pleasure to speak before you today as a school board trustee as well as a proud graduate of Calhoun High School. I’m currently planning my 30 year high school reunion from Calhoun. As you can imagine, it causes reflection on what advice I might bestow upon my younger self or in this case, the students seated before me today.
As someone who has walked the same streets as you, carried my school books down the same hallways as you and sat in the same classrooms long before you, I can share with you what I’ve learned about life in the hope I will say something that will be useful to you while navigating through your post-high school lives.
1. Live your own life –Up until this point you’ve been told what to do, where to be or what needs to be done to achieve success. But as young adults setting out in the world, there won’t always be people telling you what to do – you will have to learn to make those decisions yourself. Your time is limited, don’t waste it living some else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Don’t be afraid of changing your mind along the way, or exploring different paths. No one expects you to have it all figured out at 17 or 18 years old, or even when you’re twenty. Discovery takes time and that time is well-spent.
2. You will make mistakes and survive failures – No one is perfect. Thomas Edison racked up over 10,000 failed experiments before he invented the light bulb. Be persistent, open-minded, and flexible. Flexibility allows us to learn from our mistakes and open-mindedness allows us to learn from others. Let the stumbling blocks of your failures be the stepping-stones to your success. Remember to be kind to yourself and forgive yourself often. The good news is that each day provides us all with an opportunity to start over.
3. Make now count .Now is the only time there is – Even as you envision where you want to be in 5 years or 10 years, make sure your head and heart are planted firmly in the now – in this moment – because that is all we are guaranteed. Tomorrow is never promised. Give each experience your full attention. Disconnect on a regular basis. Every text message isn’t urgent, Your Instagram and snaps will survive without you and your email can wait. It does the mind good to shut everything down from time to time and just live.
4. Be kind and have integrity – always.. Sometimes life can be unfair and people may choose to treat you unfairly. Know that your character is not built on how people treat you, but how you react and respond. You are always responsible for how you act, no matter how you feel. When faced with adversity, have the fortitude to rise above whomever or whatever it is, and always do what it is right. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy but it will always say more about your character than anything else. Despite what others may or may not do, it’s up to each of us to do as little harm as possible as we maneuver through this life. In fact, the person seated next to you today may be someone who extends an olive branch to help you in the future when needed most. Or it may even be you who winds up helping a fellow classmate down the road. Be mindful to build bridges not burn them.
5. Express gratitude and appreciation everyday – All too often, we are so focused on a task at hand or absorbed by what is going on around us that that we forget two words that change the trajectory of anyone’s day – thank you. They are two small words but they pack a powerful punch. Tell your parents thank you. Tell a teacher who really made a difference, thank you as this may be the last time you ever see them. That small gesture may gain you a friend for life. I know my classmates and I are still in communication with some of our teachers from 30 years ago.
6. Give back – The world can be a scary place sometimes and there are a lot of things wrong with it. It may seem we can’t change things but the world IS our business and we CAN change things. Stand up, be involved and be heard. Stand up for injustices when you see them. Find a way to be of service to your community and the world we live in. That’s how we start making a difference. There is great reward in being part of the solution.
7. We are all students and teachers throughout life – There is a purpose for everyone you meet in your life. Some people will test you, some will use you, some will bring out the best in you, but every single one will teach you something about yourself. And when you learn something new as a student of life, pay if forward to those who need that same lesson. If you learn one lesson from each experience or each person, you will emerge a stronger and better person.
8. Lastly, Don’t measure success by the end result – Just as you went through high school and always knew who had the newest car, hottest electronic or the most expensive sneakers know that this will continue if you let it throughout your life. Do your best not to compare yourself to others. Always keep in mind that these things do not define who you are, no matter how many people tell you that it does. Steve Jobs who reached the pinnacle of success spoke of this. He stated it perfectly -As we grow older, and hence wiser, we slowly realize that is no difference in wearing a $300..or $30.00 watch…they both tell the same time. Whether we drive a $150,000 car or a $30,000 car, the road and distance is the same, and we get to the same destination. Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq. ft., loneliness is the same. You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first or economy class, if the plane goes down, you go down with it. There is wisdom in his words. The truth is, anyone who lives a happy life certainly lives a successful life. Every so often, pause and ask yourself if you are happy. If the answer is no, make the necessary adjustments to put yourself on a path toward that goal of happiness.
This is likely the last time the class of 2018 will be congregated together. Live in this moment, making memories that will last a lifetime. Just as me and my classmates from 1988 are forever linked by Calhoun, know that the class of 2018 will always be bound together by Calhoun High School for a lifetime.
So graduates, go forth in kindness and with purpose. Remember, once a Colt always a Colt. We all bleed blue! On behalf of the Bellmore Merrick Central High Schools District Board of Education, congratulations to the class of 2018