Monta Vista High School Graduation Speech 2004
I wanted to be brilliant today —– so I didn’t want to use my own ideas. I went out and interviewed some graduates, young people and older folks — to see what they remember about what people said at their graduation, to see what had really made a difference in their lives. You know what? Not one person remembered a single thing about what was said that day. Oh they remembered other things — how hot it was, whether something embarrassing happened, who was there for them. Definitely who was there for them. In fact, they mostly wanted to tell me stories about their high school years, their best and worst moments, stories about their teachers from hell like Mr. Birdsong and the teachers who changed their lives in wonderful ways like Mr. Birdsong.
At first I was disappointed. I was hoping for that perfect line, the one that would make you remember my words forever. As I thought about it, I realized that their response was perfect for our theme: Bring Me That Horizon. This is a school whose image is that of ambitious and hard-working students, but even for those students the “horizon” is an unattainable goal. As we approach our chosen horizon, we inevitably create another. If our sights are set on attaining a goal, and if we can enjoy nothing but that goal, we are going to be disappointed. We will not be able to help but be trapped in an endless frustrating cycle. But if we can enjoy the process, the present — if we seize every moment and treasure every day on our way to wherever we are headed, then success is ours. We carry the horizon with us — we are always “there.”
We are enjoying a taste of success today — we are graduating from high school, and that is a proud achievement. We get a diploma to prove it and that has been our goal, our “horizon.” But that diploma is just a receipt of sorts; it has no intrinsic value. If we lose it, we don’t lose our experience here. After all it would be difficult to make us forget the hundreds of hours spent studying, the hundreds of dollars spent on school supplies, and hundreds of days spent at this school. But, as special as today is, I can assure you seniors that in just a few years, you will remember little about it. Since that’s the case, I’d like to address myself not to the graduating class for a moment, but to the rest of you — for you are the ones we will remember. Our experience here has been like a race, and we don’t run the race alone. You have prepared us for it, coached and trained us for it, you have been there to sustain us throughout the course. You have encouraged us along the way, lifted us up when we were down, and pulled us back when we got off-track. Moms and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family and treasured friends, teachers and administrators, religious leaders and staff members, we are so grateful. We would not be where we are today without you. Thank You!. I hope that you will always remember that.
As we look toward our new horizon, I will leave the seniors with two bits of wisdom, one taken from a t-shirt and other from a car ad. The t-shirt says The Journey is the Destination — so remember your goal, but enjoy the life that is happening while you are busy making other plans. And take this line from the car ad to heart: Live. A lot. Unleash yourself upon the world and Go!