Friday, May 16, 2008

My Keynote Address to the Graduating Class of 2008

Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try. - Homer Simpson

To the class of 2008, your role models as seen on the front pages of newspapers, headlines on the evening news, perhaps the person sitting next to you...

are political leaders who speak ethical, honorable, words and then act the opposite.

are athletes with asterisks after their records.

are corporate CEO's who are making more money than he/she knows what to do with while their front line followers struggle to buy gas, have basic health care and live in unsafe neighborhoods.

are suicide bombers who act because all hope is gone and fear rules his/her life.

are scientists who debate whether global warming is real while poor air quality is a fact leading to more breathing disorders.

are yelling radio and television personalities whose ideologies speak but do not listen or have meaningful dialogue.

are obese people, smokers, irresponsible alcoholic drinkers and type A driven people who choose to continue to live unhealthy lifestyles that frustrate doctors and drive health care costs up.

are people who drink bottled water from exotic places like Fiji where half the population does not have descent drinking water.

But then there are some role models you may have missed...

Did you see Randy Pausch whose "last lecture" (You Tube) should be an inspiration to all of us to live a life of value rather than a life of success.

Do you know of Dustin Carter who lost his legs and arms to a rare blood disease early in his life, yet through hard work and discipline went to the Ohio High School wrestling championships!

How about Lacey Henderson, the University of Denver cheerleader who lost her right leg at age nine and was captain of her high school cheer leading squad.

Do you know the name Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest as well as seven of the tallest summits on the seven continents?

Then there is Porter Ellett of Bicknell, Utah who lost his right arm several years ago. He led his Wayne High School basketball team to the state playoffs. In addition, if that is not enough, he runs track and plays baseball!

My question to you during this graduation season, who inspires you?

Who is your role model? Does he/she inspire you to get off the couch, away from the TV and Play Station, stop texting and to make smart choices? Does he/she challenge your negative, 'I can't,' 'that's impossible,' 'it will never happen,' 'I was born this way,' thinking?

You may not have to look far. It might be a parent(s) who sacrificed time and money to support you. It might be a sports coach who gave you an opportunity when others said you were not good enough. Perhaps it was your employer who pushed you a bit harder to be your best. Can you think of a teacher who touched not only your mind but also your heart?

The World needs your desire, your energy, your curiosity, your concern, your heart, your service - NOW!

Human rights violations continue at epic proportions. Crime is always in the headlines. People continue to die from poor drinking water and a lack of nutritious food. We are energy dependent on nations that support terrorists. A majority of the world is illiterate and lacks fundamental education. Greed accounts for many selfish acts. Trust is at an all time low while fear is at an all time high.

Please, get busy living and make a difference!

What can you do?

Make common sense common practice.

Begin with you. Daily, sharpen your saw. Make your health a priority. Eat right. Get enough sleep. Get regular exercise. Use sunscreen. Reach for water instead of a soda. Drink responsibly. Obey the speed limit. Wear a seat belt. Practice moderation.

Know what you stand for and your values.

Live them. Be a role model to others, because we are watching! Purchase a graduation present for yourself – a journal. Discover your purpose, your gifts, your talents and write them down. Write down your philosophy on life. Write down your mission – what your life looks like in five years, ten years, even fifty years from now. Write your obituary! What legacy do you want to leave others? Write down inspiring sayings, poetry, stories, scripture, proverbs and even jokes. Refer to all of this regularly – even daily to help keep yourself on track, see where you need to make changes, help when you hit a “valley” and monitor how you are growing.

Work on your first impressions.

First impressions are lasting impressions. Practice being interested rather than interesting. It is really all about others, not you. Make eye contact. Give a firm handshake. Dress in a manner that causes people to look at you and not how you are dressed.

Be curious.

Get out of your comfort zone. Step out of your rut. Try new foods. Go to the library and see what is new. Visit museums and learn. Visit places people do not normally go. Talk with people who appear to be different from you including age, skin color, religious preferences, and even personality. Pick up magazines you do not normally read. Go to websites that challenge your thinking. Try a new sport including bowling, chess and geocaching.

Finally, prove Homer Simpson wrong.

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