Tuesday, June 09, 2009
My graduation speech for my alma mater
Over the weekend, I put together a draft of the graduation speech I'm giving to my alma mater next monday, 20 years after I started high school. It took me three sittings to bang this out...I can write 3,000 words about sports in a hearbeat, churn out a business plan in a flash or whip together a lengthy anecdotal blog post so fast it'll make your head spin - but being emotionally neutral, the more sappy stuff take a lot out of me. so i took my time and let this evolve.
I did it as a series of vignettes that can be modularly added/removed for time purposes. I've been told I have 5 minutes to fill, but I plugged the speech into our teleprompter and it comes out to about 6:12.
Let me know what you think...criticism welcome! And if you're one of my classmates from SSHS '92, then print this out or share it with our classmates. It's as much for you as it is for the kids.
(You can also see the intro here.)
Appreciating Who You Are
Hello, Hafa Adai and good evening...my fellow Sharks.
It is truly an honor for me stand before you AND beside you, on this, your proudest moment. It doesn't matter that I'm twice your age, because tonight, and for all time, we now stand as equals. In a very short time, you'll officially be able to call yourselves "alumni of Simon Sanchez High School", a wonderful achievement to be sure.
I'd like to talk to you tonight not about where you're going, not the unique paths you've all certainly come from that got you here, but who you all have become. Many of you probably may not realize the truth that's been hiding in plain sight for the past four years, since you first set foot at Sanchez High. That you are - and will always be - Sharks.
When I was asked to speak to the Class of '09, I was incredibly moved. I was humbled at being given the chance to not only honor my alma mater and bring some laughter and inspiration to the great young minds of tomorrow...but to also be able to represent MY classmates; and pass down our experience, our knowledge and our motivations to you. You see...that's truly what it means to be a Shark. Let me explain.
In a competitive context, the personification of our school spirit is naturally often characterized as being predatory, aggressive, keenly-sensed, and second-to-none in our ability to dominate our environment. That certainly works for sports and extra-curricular activities, because as anyone clearly knows, it's quite frankly a completely moronic argument to challenge that Sanchez has hands-down THE BEST MASCOT ON GUAM!
But there's another, more critical dimension about these majestic creatures that perfectly describes how we take care of business in the classroom and how we conduct ourselves in society - Sharks survive. Sharks adapt. Sharks are highly respected. Sharks finish what they start. Sharks stand their ground. Sharks are among the most highly-intelligent members of the animal kingdom. Sharks are everywhere.
And that is how we, your predecessors, carry ourselves everyday as members of the prestigious fraternity you're all about to join. It's a legacy we're proud to uphold - and this is the legacy I'm now extremely honored, on behalf of my fellow alumni, to pass onto you.
And make no mistake, my Sharks: your ability to earn the right to sit here before your friends, family and the community is proof positive that you can do anything in this world. And no one, ever, can take this moment away from you.
The burden of an alumnus is the unspoken promise that you'll be the best member of the community you possibly can. Demonstrate good character. Always put others before yourself. Be confident, but humble. Don't back down from any challenge, no matter how daunting. Honor your family and your faith. Respect those who came before you and appreciate the lessons they have to teach. Help the next generation. Give back to Guam, and always do your very best to make the island the very best it can be. That's the mark of a Sanchez graduate. It's not easy, and it's a commitment that's lifelong.
But it's a true honor...and this is the honor that you've worked for all your life. And tonight, that honor is finally yours.
I represent a graduating class that two decades ago this fall started out our high school journey, both collectively and individually. The Mighty Class of 1992. 17 years ago, my classmates and I, some 202 strong (which at the time was a Sanchez record), sat in our caps and gowns as you do now - some anxious, some nervous, some relieved, some fidgety, some hungry, some bored, some unable to wait for it to be over, some scared out of our minds.
But like true Sharks, we all persevered.
Now, I won't gloss over the truth. While most of my classmates have happily raised families, found success in business, defend our nation's liberties on the battlefield, serve in government, keep our streets safe, and fight to rid the world of disease...some forgot who they were and lost their way. Some right now are sitting in jail, tormented by regret. Some are in deep battles with drug and alcohol addictions. Some lie in mainland medical facilities enduring indescribable pain. And some are no longer with us at all.
That's the brutal reality of life, my friends. And that's how society seeks to categorize each and every one of us: not as a Shark, but merely a number. A statistic. A figure.
So I challenge you tonight and for the rest of your time on Earth to rise above such expectations. Realize who you have become AND the responsibility you now carry. Be the best always, and in everything you do. Walk tall. Be a strong Guamanian. Be a Shark.
So even though you've most assuredly got plans with friends and family, I would humbly ask you, my fellow Sharks, to do something tonight. Do this one simple thing, not for your families, ot for your classmates, not for the alumni...do this exclusively for yourselves: before you embark on your celebrations tonight, go somewhere quiet and alone. Spend a few moments in silence and just look at your diploma. Reflect on the last four years of you life, recognizing all the dedication, sacrifice, commitment, self-discipline and devotion to your education and the hard work you've put in.
Think about your first steps on the Yigo campus, remember how big the buildings seemed, how lost you were, how you only knew a few people. And then think about the class activities you got involved in, the friendships you've forged, the teachers that mentored you, how underclassmen went to you for your expertise, how you knew everyone in your class and everyone knew you.
I ask that you do this because I did this the night I graduated, and it made all the difference in the world. It helped remind me that my school years may have ended, but more importantly that a new chapter in my life was just beginning. And it galvanized who I had become.
And I believe it'll have the same effect for you.
So while a very demanding, very competitive and at times very cruel world lay ahead, let me leave you with this: don't ever stop believing in yourselves. By completing your high school education, you've now proven to the entire world - but most importantly, to yourselves - that you're capable of doing anything. Don't stop learning, working, or questioning. Be not nobody.
Go into whatever walk of life you take interest in and do it with pride. Wear your school colors proudly, and never forget who you are. You are a graduate of Simon Sanchez High. You are a Shark.
So on behalf of the thousands of Sharks throughout the world, I say welcome to our ranks. We're extremely proud of you, we celebrate your achievement, we love you, we stand ready to help you as fellow graduates of this wonderful school, and we expect you to do the same for future Sanchez High classes.
So congratulations, my friends! This night is yours. And always, always conduct yourselves as Sharks.
Monday, June 01, 2009
My commencement speech intro (aka, The Old Testament)
I mentioned on Twitter several weeks ago how I was hoping to involve crowdsourcing feedback into the commencement speech I've been asked to give at my alma mater's graduation ceremony on the 15th. I've since been asked to whittle it down to five minutes, but to also do a lengthy intro (that's public school for you).
Have at it...comments/criticism welcome. Rather than be stuffy, I'd prefer to do something to make the kids laugh.
Delivering tonight's keynote address is a proud alumnus of Sanchez High, Mr. Jason Salas.
Jason is best known in the Guam community for his work at KUAM, where he works as interactive media manager, overseeing all aspects of the company's digital content delivery efforts. Over the last decade he's co-anchored the nightly 6pm news with Sabrina Salas Matanane, done play-by-play for local sports broadcasts, and hosted numerous shows and programs on television, on the radio and online.
He also continues his life's work of helping Guamanians improve their lives through technology, having launched several spinoff projects to this end.
Having grown up in Dededo in Ypaopao Estates as the eldest child of two educators, Jason graduated from the Home of the Sharks in 1992. He was a four-year cadet in the Shark JROTC battalion, serving as color guard commander and battalion commander his senior year. He played middle blocker for our boys volleyball team (although a broken wrist kept him from seeing any on-court action his last season). He was heavily involved in class activities, extra-curricular events, and was an avid high school sports fan. He even came back after graduating to help coach the volleyball teams.
Jason was an honors student and graduated near the top of his class of 202 students, excelling at math and English; despite this, he was absolutely horrendous at science and often fell asleep in government class. He was voted duke of his senior prom, and his yearbook lists his senior superlative as "Worst Jokes", a well-deserved moniker he remains proud of to this day.
He wore his letterman's jacket to school as often as he could. He also doesn't hesitate to give Sanchez High a shameless on-air plug whenever he calls a game.
After high school, he earned a marketing degree from the University of Guam and also studied music theory. He later put himself through graduate school and holds an MBA with emphasis in technology management. He's a self-taught software developer and a passionate part-time musician.
Despite the various paths his career has taken him, he always remained true to his alma mater. He credits the tightness and camaraderie between his classmates as a major driving factor towards his success, and he and his fellow alumni remain lifelong friends. He kept his graduation tassel hanging from his car's rear-view mirror for three years, even after Guam's searing heat faded its proud silver & black colors.
He very happily returns to his alma mater to speak to tonight's graduates on the topic of "Appreciating Where You Came From". Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Class of '92 graduate...Jason Salas.
(...and the crowd, assuming they're still awake by this point, goes wild.)
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