I’d like to share this with you. This is the “speech” that my husband, Jason, a high school physics teacher – presented to 270 graduates just a few days again. The speech and the ceremony were, of course, to honor and celebrate the students and their achievements. However, this speech that Jason gave reached more than just the 17 and 18 year olds sitting in caps and gowns; the message was presented to the other 1000 family members and guests within the room as well.
I think this may resonate with many others, so I asked Jason if it would be all right, if I shared it with just a few more people….
Over the years many educators and family members have asked this one simple question of students: What do you want to be when you grow up? As elementary students your answers bubbled from your lips in an excited frenzy. I want to be a doctor! I want to be an astronaut! I want to be a teacher, veterinarian, actor, race car driver, architect, business owner, ballerina, doctor, lawyer! And often you even wanted to do more than one career at a time! When you were little you did not need anyone to tell you to have big dreams. You had a vision for your life and you were not afraid to share it with anyone.
I have asked this same question in my own high school classroom and received rather mixed reviews. Students often fall into one of several categories. One such category is the student who confidently states exactly what it is they want to pursue. “I want to be a cardiac electrophysiologist!” A second category of student states they want to do something in a more general area, as in “something in the business world.” Yet a third, and surprisingly large category consists of students who claim, “I have no idea.” That’s not to suggest that a 14-18-year-old has to have it all figured out right now, but notice the difference between the responses of elementary age kids and that of high school students. The challenge then is to keep the excitement for life into young adulthood and to continue to dream courageously!
One of my favorite quotes is posted on the wall in our own High School weight room. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!” Throughout time humans have pushed the envelope of creativity by dreaming of something more. We have explored much of the land and water on which we live, including both poles and the depths of the oceans as well as reefs and shallows. We have built and paved cities and towns, crossed continents on foot, created machines of metal that fly. We have been to the Moon! We have devised ways to send communication thousands of miles and we have built computers that fit in our pockets! None of this would be possible if we didn’t dream courageously and look for ways around or out of our current failures. Most of us are familiar with the failures of Edison as he tried to develop the incandescent lightbulb but all of our ventures are risky. When we dream courageously we find what is possible.
Yet because of the risk it is tempting to be content with dreaming realistically. Jim Collins argues quite effectively in his book “Good to Great” that “good is the enemy of great.” Phrases like, “good enough” and “C’s get degrees” outline this concept quite well. If “good” is “good enough” you will never see great. If your dream is small, you may never succeed to your full potential. John Wooden, legendary college basketball coach, defined success this way, “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” This is the pinnacle of dreaming courageously! You do not need to be the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, you need to be the best version of you! The way to becoming the best version of you is to challenge yourself to continue to dream courageously in the face of adversity.
Adversity comes in many shapes and forms. Challenges with college admittance and FAFSA, choosing the right courses, admittance to college programming. However, when you dream courageously the challenge often comes from those you love the most. Bruce Wilkinson tracks the progress of an “Ordinary Person” with a “Big Dream” trying to leave the land of “Familiar” in his inspirational story “The Dream Giver.” Ordinary is met with resistance to his dream because it takes him away from the ones he loves the most. His biggest distractors, family members, argue that everything is fine in the Land of Familiar and he should not leave. Yet a burning desire to impact others through the realization of his dream pushed Ordinary to continue. Many of you face this same challenge as you plan to leave for college, military, and other plans for your future. Know that your courageous dream is worth fulfilling.
As we travel through life, from one experience to the next, continue to dream courageously and your dream will take on a life of its own. Jon Gordon gives us insight into how to this works. He writes “desire, vision, and focus move your [dream] in the right direction.” But it is difficult to do this alone. Invite others to share your desire, vision, and focus. Create success for others and others in turn will help create your success. And remember enthusiasm attracts more people to the process!
As I close my challenge for the graduating class of 2017 is to continue to dream courageously. Through this process you will find that your dreams can and do impact others in a tremendous way. Recall the passion you had for living life when you were younger and plan your life accordingly. Remember that others have failed before you and triumphed in the end, you are not alone. When the path looks rough and dangerous turn to those you trust with your dream for encouragement and guidance. Be coachable and humble and above all let your dream impact others. If you do, you will find that your dreams will come true in abundance. So Class of 2017, Dream Courageously!
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