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2012 MHS Superintendent’s Commencement Address
Members of the board of education, staff, family members, students, alumni, and guests, welcome and congratulations for supporting our graduates on their road to this day! Most importantly, welcome and congratulations to the outstanding Class of 2012! The School District of Menomonie is very proud of each of you. I am honored to be a part of the celebration of your success.
Today is your day.
Most of our days are days we don’t remember. We don’t remember the specifics of our day-to-day occurrences. We may not always remember where we were, with whom we spoke, or even the details of what we may have done, but we do remember how our experiences made us feel. You will probably remember today.
Today is a day of celebration; it is a celebration of your success. Today is a day of reflection, reflection on all you have accomplished and all that is yet to come. Today is also a day of appreciation. It is a day to appreciate all of the people who have helped you along the way.
However, I think today is also a day that you should feel privileged.
You are privileged to live in a nation with the freedom to follow your dreams and the freedom to get an education regardless of your social situation. You are privileged to live in a world full of boundless opportunities to be whatever you choose to be. You are only limited by your own ability to imagine the possibilities.
You are also privileged to live in a community that cares and has supported each of you in reaching your goals. Compared to many areas of the world, you are truly lucky to have the opportunities you now have before you. Don’t take any of it for granted. Dream big!
I graduated from high school exactly 40 years age, and yes that makes me very old. But not as old as one amongst you once thought I was.
I am confident your classmate won’t remember this story but I will never forget it. I met many of you in elementary school. When your class was in first grade, one of you was sent to the principal’s office. I was the principal. Actually, more than one of you visited me there, but we won’t tell all of those stories today!
On this particular day one of your classmates was sent to my office to finish his math. His teacher reported that he was having a pretty hard time sitting still in the classroom. She wondered whether he could join me in my office where I could provide some helpful guidance.
He walked in with a smile, his giant chart and pencil in hand. He got right to work. His task was to write his numbers from 1-100. He had been working for a while when I asked him how far he had gotten.
He looked up and said he had probably gotten to my age. I asked the obvious question: how old do you think I am? Without hesitating, he said 88! So, if you know who you are, I just want you to know that would make me 100 today!
Our age is intertwined with our experiences.
You were the first kindergarten class of the 21st century. You are the new millennial generation! You started kindergarten the same year we were all introduced to Harry Potter.
When you entered kindergarten there were 150 million Internet users and over half came from the U.S. Today there are over 2 billion Internet users and only 10% of them are in the U.S.
Sadly, your start in kindergarten also aligned with the year of the Columbine tragedy. As a result, you have spent your entire educational career knowing how to practice lock down drills.
But life is not just about where you start, it is also about how you finish. So as you leave Menomonie High School and take your place in the world I would like to share a couple of pieces of advice.
First of all, do not let others define who you are or can be! Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers who died earlier this year, once said, “Your life is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Each of you needs to stop for a moment. You can feel your heart beating. You can feel your eyes blinking. Then you need to ask who is managing all of those molecules? The answer is, you are.
You have reached a point when you will have full control of who you become, what you become, and most importantly the person you want that to be. It is not what happens to us in life that matters, it is how we choose to think about it that matters.
As you look amongst yourselves, you will see classmates who have already seen their fair share of challenges. They have seen poverty, experienced loss, or some, at the young age of 18, have already experienced homelessness.
On the other hand, others of you have lived a pretty charmed life. At this point in your life, it all becomes another even playing field. The future provides the same opportunities for all of you! Your success now is based upon your future choices. You will always be presented with challenges that I hope you will turn into opportunities.
Don’t let the noise from others drown out the inner voice telling you that you are brilliant. Life is about choices. Don’t limit yourself to the expectations of others. Follow your dreams!
I promise you will never know what you are capable of unless you try.
My second piece of advice today is to give back to your world. Be kind.
By the nature of being a teenager, you have been fairly egocentric. Your focus has been on navigating and thriving in your Midwestern hometown world.
Some of you have been pretty big fish in a little pond, while most of your classmates have been swimming within the bigger school of minnows and quietly and brilliantly aspiring to their own goals. Things will change for all of you. All of you are now beginning as guppies all over again, and in a much bigger worldwide pond!
You will be starting again with exciting new choices and great opportunities.
As adults you will need to work together. As an adult with choices, you are joining a much larger world where millions of people are working on behalf of strangers everyday.
Service will no longer mean submitting your accumulation of volunteer hours to Mr. Miller for a certification on your diploma. While that has been a wonderful incentive for now, it wasn’t the point of service. True service comes from the heart. The reasons our district stresses service to others is because we hope our graduates will find service so rewarding that they will make it a mission in their lives.
Ordinary people confront abuse of power, poverty, despair, and challenges everyday. As a Menomonie High School graduate, we hope you will look around your world and ask yourself what needs to be done. Then we hope you will go ahead and do it!
Only after you have already accomplished it should you check to see if it was supposed to even be possible!
Finally my last piece of advice is to be patient with your parents! They are about to cut you loose and they worry. For example, if you are a self-confessed video game junkie, they are already worried about who is going to tell you to go to bed at night and who will get you up in the morning. They will need your reassurance that all is well! Call home often!
Menomonie graduates, in closing, we hope you will be all you dream to be! Live well and help others live well! Remember, it is not just how you start, but also how you finish!
Congratulations Class of 2012! You have made us very proud!
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