Category Archives: commencement speech

Make Your Mark – My commencement speech to my son’s high school graduating class

It is an honor to speak before you today. I’m proud to be among a sea of friends. Today, I have a trifecta happening, I am a school board trustee, an alumni and a parent of one of today’s graduates. Special shout out to my boy, Jake!  This graduating class takes on special meaning to me as I have witnessed first-hand a majority of the students  grow from kindergartners to graduates. 

If someone would have told me almost 30 years ago that one day I would be delivering a graduation speech for Calhoun, I would have said he were crazy. Like many of the graduates today, I was hard pressed to graduate from high school and move on to the real world. My end goal was high school graduation. As a Calhoun student, I’ve repeated the same words so many of you have to your own parents regarding my classes “when will I ever need this in real life”. Well, the only reason I was able to write today’s speech and read it without a bundle of nerves is credited to two of my former Calhoun high school teachers. My English teacher, Mrs. Schuman who taught me the beauty and art of the English language and Mr. Parkinson, my public speaking teacher who taught me the strategies to be articulate when speaking in front of others. Ironically, public speaking was a last minute choice, obviously that class paid off.

As evidenced today, what you learn in high school can and will be applied. In years to come, I promise that each of you will reflect on the teachers who most influenced you.

In keeping with today’s gratitude. I’d like all the teachers present today to stand and be recognized for their contributions to our district. Thank you for all you do for our students in Bellmore-Merrick and being an inspiration to our students, administrators and the board of education. Your passion and love for teaching and the students are appreciated and do not go unnoticed.

As a trustee, I have witnessed the greatness of our students and staff daily. The standard for academic success was set high and each of you sitting before me have met it. Our Calhoun teachers have guided you and challenged you. Each of you today has risen to those challenges.

Faculty, family and friends have all made sacrifices in helping you be successful. Whether it was a teacher extending a deadline or offering extra help or your parent who received that 911 text to bring your homework or that book you forgot. That your parent’s life immediately came to a halt to rush to school to get your much needed items to the office in time. Also, let’s not forget your friends who rescued you when you forgot an assignment and offered help.

Why would so many people go through such lengths for you? The reason is simple. They want you to succeed and do well. It’s a common thread that binds all of these people to your life. We all share in this rewarding moment and celebrate this milestone with you. As a school board trustee it is the highlight of the year when we hand out diplomas and watch each student cross the stage as your dream of graduation is realized by all of us in attendance. The fruits are your labor are rewarded today.

Whether you are entering the workforce after graduation or moving on to higher education, the advice is the same. Take risks. Asks questions. Planning and dreaming are great but I challenge you all to be doers. Don’t sit back gazing into the future of what could be. Be present. Action happens in the now. Greatness can’t be gained through the confines of a comfort zone. Push yourself and work hard. Be life-long learners. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

Graduation is an interesting time in your lives as you are immediately propelled into adulthood. A week ago you’re a high school student and next month you’re an adult. Shed the skin of others expectations today and adhere to a new expectation. The one you put on yourself. Set the threshold high. Set goals. Make plans. Then work your way toward them. 

You will encounter many people along your journey. There are lessons to be learned from each of them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your interactions, people will always remember how you treated them and your kindness.

 Here’s a small example I can share with you. When I was in Calhoun, we had an AV squad back then. That can probably be more associated to a computer club now. The students on this squad weren’t necessarily my friends but I always said hi to those who passed me in the halls. With the help of social media, I connected with so many past classmates. When I suffer a tech emergency, my first phone call is to one of these people who were on that AV squad back in my high school days. He is now the successful owner of a technology company. 

Today you are surrounded by classmates however one day you might come to meet them and they will be professionals. At your high school reunion, you will be surrounded by former classmates who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, counselors, and the list can go on and on. My point in telling you this is not to burn bridges. You never know when someone from your past will be an olive branch in the future.

You don’t need to have all the answers in life right now. We adults don’t even have all the answers. But each of us moves forward as you will. Part of life is making mistakes. There will be times you fail. Embarrassment or disappointment may try to defeat you. Don’t be blinded by self-doubt because it may infringe on your ability to learn from your mistakes and make you defensive.  Be receptive to the constructive criticism and work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths. Make smart, well thought out decisions.

You are responsible for your life. Your parents, your family and your teachers have guided you thus far. But now is your chance to make your mark. Life is full of choices. Picture life as a road map. Each choice puts you on a path. Make sure your choices lead you on a path that you are ultimately proud of and will help contribute to your success. Live the life that YOU want, and follow that path to your happiness.

Today is a critical point in your life. The future is an open book and you will be responsible for writing the pages. You don’t want your life comprised of excuses of obstacles that stood in your way, who didn’t tell you something or by someone not offering sound advice. Someone will always have more or less than you. Find opportunities and leap at them. Figure a way over or around obstacles. Don’t rely on gossip and rumors as facts.  You are tasked to investigate things for yourself. Learn things first hand. Be accountable for your actions. Take this mantle of responsibility and use it to your advantage to be the best version of yourself possible. If you had a bad day, experienced a disappointing test grade, flopped on a job interview don’t fret. Don’t be stuck in that moment. Rather turn the page of your life’s book and start fresh tomorrow. You are the author of your own story and are capable of changing the narrative at any point.

We are gathered today because of your academic achievements but more important than that is continuing with the strong character education you’ve been taught. You can be the most successful person in the world but if you don’t have good moral character, life is shallow. Continue to be a good person. Be kind in all you do and to all you encounter. Be compassionate. Be generous. Be accepting, Be tolerant. Be humble. You never know how your words or kind gestures may impact another person. Your integrity is your calling card in life. Be true to your word and never break it. You are only as good as your word. A reputation is what others think of you. Integrity is what you think of yourself. 

This truly is the time of your life. Seize the day. Enjoy your friends this summer. Enjoy the beach, ½ price apps at Bees and revel in being around those you love most. Don’t base your worth on how many likes you have on Instagram. Social media isn’t the benchmark of one’s value. Don’t lose out on moments in order to capture it in a picture. Don’t be a slave to your phone or preoccupied with who is texting you. Just stop. Put the phone down and participate in making memories with those who are present. Live life every day to the fullest.  

In closing, we look forward to hearing about you even after today’s graduations. We celebrate in your greatness, your achievements and milestones today and beyond. We are all enormously proud of you. Remember, once a Colt, always a Colt. We all bleed blue!

On behalf of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Board of Education, Congratulations to the Sanford H. Calhoun Graduating class of 2016. You did it!

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Be the Ringleader of Your Life – my commencement speech to an elementary school 

It is an honor to have the opportunity to speak to our graduating class today as you complete an important step in your educational  journey that will continue your entire life. I thought about where one might learn life lessons outside of the classroom but can easily be applied to your journey in school, and the circus came to mind. 

When I think of the circus, I think of the lions in the cage, twinkling lights, the big top, the clowns and trapeze artists.

Beyond the wonderment of the sights and sounds, a lot of things happen under the big top. In many ways, the circus is a metaphor for life. We experience a range of emotions as we take in what’s before us. One minute we are laughing, and the next we are holding our breath in fear and anticipation. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what life lessons we can find amongst the stardust:

Be the Ringmaster of your life. It’s your life. The ringmaster controls the show at center stage. While you can’t control everything in your life, there are certainly times you have the power to direct it. You can choose to study for a test. You can choose the people you do or don’t want in your life.  And just as importantly, you can choose the type of person or friend you want to be. Choose wisely.

You’re on a tightrope. Keep your balance. Just as an acrobat walks across the tightrope and tries to balance successfully across it, you must find the balance in your life. Find a place for everything in your life, school work, friends and extracurricular activities. While school work will increase in the next phase of your journey, so will the chance to meet new people and join in more after school activities.

Toss your hat in the ring. Get involved. The circus is wonderful to watch, but even more fun to participate in. Don’t sit on the sidelines as a spectator. Challenge yourself to push your limits. Take the risk. Perhaps you want to try a sport you never tried before. Perhaps there is a club that interests you. Middle school is filled with resources. This is an ideal time to tap into these opportunities.

Like the trapeze artists, you’ll need a sturdy net. You will need back-up. No matter how much you try to be balanced, there will be times you make mistakes, slip and fall. This is part of life. You need to acquire a network of people who will help dust you off and put you on the right path. Your new team of teachers and guidance counselors will be there to prepare you and support you at MAMS during your time there. But the strongest net you will have will be your parents and family because they will catch you each and every time.

Like the clowns in the circus, it’s important to take a moment and laugh about things. Seriousness has its place, but it’s good to take the time to laugh with your friends and enjoy every experience that comes your way in middle school.

The lion tamer faces his fears each time he steps foot in the enclosed cage. So must you face your fears and take risks, knowing that you can learn to tame a lion, too When new challenges and unfamiliar circumstances are in front of you, don’t run but rather face your fears. Feel empowered to initiate a conversation with a teacher or a coach, or to ask a question. Be confident in who you are. It’s ok to speak up for yourself and even better, for those that won’t or can’t for themselves. Take all the lessons you learned at Camp Avenue and apply them in middle school. Be kind, be caring, be inclusive, and most importantly work up to your full potential.

Life is very much like the circus. It’s filled with the unexpected, the exciting and sometimes anticipation of the unknown. It’s a lot to take in but if you look closely beyond the glitter, you will see wisdom and magic that awaits you at every new milestone. You will continue to learn and grow throughout your educational journey. The spectators of your life, your family, friends and teachers, will celebrate with you each step of the way. After today, you will have your ticket, walk into the arena, head held high and embrace all the great things that away you in middle school.

On behalf of the North Merrick Board of Education we sadly and proudly say goodbye and on behalf of the central high school board of education we welcome you, congratulations to our class of 2015

Commencement Speech Delivered to Elementary School Graduates Today – Take a Chance

When I sat down at the computer to write this speech, I thought of the game Monopoly and the lessons tied to it. I bet everyone in this room has played this game at some point in their life.

At the start of the game, each player chooses a token to travel around the board. This game piece represents you throughout the game. Like Monopoly, each of you chooses how you want to be viewed. When you’re making new friends or you’re meeting a teacher for the first time, be sure that who you portray is a real representation of yourself. The lesson is everyone else is taken. Just be yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you come from Baltic Avenue that’s $40 or Broadway that’s $500. Someone will always have more than you or less than you. It’s about accepting who are you are and where you come from. When you can do that, others will accept the same. Don’t compare yourselves to others.

There are a few times in Monopoly that you can land on Chance. The good news is life is full of chances. It’s up to you to make the most of these opportunities. Try out for that sports team. Join a club. Believe you will ace that music solo. Know that many times things will go your way. And if occasionally they don’t, know there will be another chance right around the corner for your taking. Don’t ever give up.

Passing go always comes with a sigh of relief. You collect your $200 and it’s a fresh start. As you head into middle school, you carry with you all that you learned here at Camp/Fayette/Old Mill Road School. We have proudly taught you how to read and write along with character education. You will be challenged academically and school work will get more difficult. You got this! Do your best each and every day. If you find yourself having a bad day, maybe a bad test score or some concept you couldn’t grasp, don’t sweat it. Each day is a fresh start for you to do better and expand your learning capability.

Monopoly can’t be played alone. It must be played with others. As you enter middle school, you will continue many of your friendships from elementary school but be open to new friendships. Change your game up occasionally. New people will enter your life as you head into MAMS. Be open to it.

Sometimes as you make your way around the board, you can land in jail. This isn’t always a bad thing. Being taken out of the game, gives an opportunity for perspective. It’s good to take a step back once in a while to make sure you are heading down the right path and you are happy with your decisions. If you find that you’ve taken a wrong turn along the way, dust yourself off and put yourself back in the game and head in the right direction.

As players make their way around the board, they will land on your property. We are all playing the same game. We are all linked. So be kind in all of the decisions you make. If you see someone that is always alone, offer to be their friend. You could make a difference in that child’s life. If you see someone being bullied, speak up. Be kind in everything you do. We all want to play a fair game.

Cheaters ruin the game. If you find the people you are surrounded by are ruining your game, find better players. Choose your friends wisely and surround yourself with others that exemplify the traits you admire.

You never know what to expect each time you take out that board and begin the game. I’m sure some of you may feel excited about middle school or perhaps even a little scared. You won’t know how you really feel until you get there. Just as you have been guided and cared for at Camp/Fayette/Old Mill Road, you will be handled with the same caring hands at MAMS. Enjoy the experience that middle school brings to you.

Monopoly is a game and the point is to have fun. Make the most of your time at MAMS. Take advantage of everything that comes your way there. When you hear of a try out or audition that may interest you, Go for it. Don’t second guess yourself if you’re good enough or worse yet, that someone else may be better than you. Here’s the secret. You are good enough. Try, just try, and maybe you will succeed and If you don’t. You will do better next year. The point is making the most of your time there. This opportunity will come but once for you. Now is the time to make the memories that one day you will look back on fondly.

When the game is over, the only thing you have left are the relationships with the people you played with. You may continue some of your friendships that you made in elementary school. You may make new friends in middle school and even more in high school. As you continue your education, many of the same people that join in your celebration today will be there to celebrate with you as you continue your educational milestones. Each chapter of your educational journey is like opening that box and taking the monopoly board out for the first time again. Apply these lessons throughout your journey.

Journey Through Oz – Commencement Speech I Delivered to My Son’s Elementary School

In some ways, you began just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was curious and searching for answers. She wasn’t always sure of what she sought, but she knew she had to step out of her comfort zone to find those answers. Though she encountered turbulence, her house landed in a magical place and so began her journey on the Yellow Brick Road to find her way. Your magical journey begins as you say goodbye to elementary school and enter the middle school. Everything you have learned both in academics and character education will need to be applied throughout your life, and both will be tested. At Camp Avenue, you learned spelling, reading, mathematics, creative writing and study skills. You will build on all of these basics during the next stage of your education, but the foundation was laid proudly and with care in elementary school.

Like Glinda the Good Witch, it is important that you remember to be kind and good. Stand for what is right. If someone is being bullied, stand up for them. If you see someone struggling to make friends, be their friend. Be certain that the decisions that you make don’t hurt others. Remember to be kind in everything you do.

Dorothy encountered crossroads and you might do the same. Though you may not always know which path to follow, use your common sense and the values you have learned here, follow your gut and go with what feels right. If you make a mistake along the way, it’s ok. Mistakes are part of life and learning. Simply wipe off the dust and move forward.

As you continue on your journey, your homework will increase and projects and tests become more difficult. Don’t worry though. You will rise to the occasion and meet these challenges. Like the Scarecrow, you will gather wisdom with each class, each grade and each level of education that you successfully complete. Through hard work and determination, you will earn your high school and college diplomas. And many of the very same people in the audience today will be there to celebrate with you when you reach those milestones in life.

While academics are a top priority, remember it’s important to have heart along the way. Like the Tin Man, it’s ok to share your feelings and wear your heart on your sleeve. There will be times when your heart may get bruised but know it will always mend.

As you continue your trip, you will need courage like the Lion. Take chances. Join a club or a sport. Become involved. Be brave and try things you have never done before. Be courageous, knowing more times than not you will be successful although there may be bumps, where things might not go your way. Courage is being able to try, and to be ready to learn from each situation while not becoming discouraged by any of them.

Like the Wicked Witch, some big obstacles might stand in your way to success. The witch represents fear and doubt. Her broom was her power. Never allow someone to cause you to doubt that you can succeed. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are brave. Feel empowered at all times in everything you do. No person or thing can take your power away from you.

Everyone in Emerald City thought that the Great and Powerful Oz was such a powerful force when, in reality, he was just a man behind a curtain. He believed that he was powerful and, therefore, everyone else did. The most important thing you can learn from the Wizard of Oz is to believe in yourself. Believe you can ace that test. Believe you can make that sports team. Believe you will nail that music solo. Believe you are smart. Believe you are a good person, and believe in the good in people.

Lastly, Dorothy made her way home to Auntie Em. Like Dorothy, YOUR story will always end with home. No matter what you do, where you go, the paths you will take, the decisions you make; you are always welcomed at home, and supported by people that love you. You will be loved during your triumphs and during your failures. Know that Camp Avenue School will always be your second home. For this is where your story began. Camp Avenue is where you learned to read and write. This is where you met some of your best, and even life-long, friends. This is where your teachers taught and guided you. Know that you have two homes, and you will always be welcomed in both.

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