The high school graduation speech I wish I could hear again

This speech was given by the Salutatorian at Chiles High School in Tallahassee at the school’s 2007 graduation.  The Salutatorian was my eldest child, Catie, who is now an associate at a law firm in Chicago.  The speech was one of those moments when you realize that your kid is doing better than you thought.  

There is always one moment in our childhood when the doors open and our future comes rushing in.  Those opportunities that always seemed far on the horizon are now standing right in front of us waiting to be grasped.  The reason many people seem to miss these opportunities when they knock is that they are always in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers to get them through life, instead of looking within and realizing they have the abilities to conquer any goal.

People with goals succeed because they know where they are going, and are willing to fight every step of the way to achieve them.  We are all beginning a new stage of life where we are the only ones who can find our opportunities.  Our parents and teachers have given us a key to open the door to our future opportunities, but it is up to us whether we take the opportunity or just let it pass us by.

In high school, teachers gave us lessons and then tested us on what we learned.  In life, sometimes we must deal with the test and consequences before we learn the lessons; we must learn not to fear failure and instead to see that it is the way we learn to succeed.  Only then can we find the confidence to reach our highest goals and to truly take every opportunity life throws at us.  In the midst of every difficulty we can find opportunity, but it won’t show its face unless we search for it.

As we begin a new chapter of our lives today, it is our duty not to wait for extraordinary situations to present opportunities to us, but for us to change ordinary circumstances into opportune moments.  In the words of Kirk Kirkpatrick, founder and CEO of MDS America, “Take a lesson from the mosquito.  She never waits for an opening – she makes one.”

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