In May 1988, I had the highest GPA of all the kids in my high school senior class. As Valedictorian, I was required to give a speech at graduation.
I remember being scared shitless. I attended three different high schools as we moved quite often, and back then I was self-conscious and hated drawing any attention to myself. Having to get up and give a speech in front of a packed auditorium was terrifying.
I don’t remember too much about the ceremony. I was a jumbled mess of anxiety and dread most of the time, but there is one thing I remember very distinctly.
Leading up to the time I had to get up to give my address, I was shaking and scared I was going to trip and was having to concentrate on just breathing. Once I got to the podium, however, a very tangible calm swept over my entire body, and I felt no fear.
That inexplicable sensation of calm only lasted the duration of the time that I was at the podium. Once I was done and returned to my seat, I was the same shaky mess I was before.
Don’t know why it happened, but that experience has given me the courage to give presentations and conduct training and even lead groups. I know I will be able to handle it because I made it through that speech, and at the time, that was the scariest thing in the world for me to do.
I stumbled across the print out of my speech the other day. Reading it 30 years later, I was struck by how dated it was and the fact that it pretty much sucked. Seriously, it sounds like I’m talking in circles and not really saying anything worthwhile at all.
I’m still super proud of that moment. The confidence I gained as a result is priceless.
So for your ridicule and entertainment, here is my speech in its entirety.
Goals: the stepping stones to success and the realization of your personal dreams. Each one of you here tonight dreams of doing, being, and having something. And those dreams are unique to you as an individual. No two people can share all the same hopes and ambitions and want all the same things out of life.
Dreams are very important. They give us something to hope for, to strive for, and to live for. But if you don’t want your dreams to stay that forever, just a dream, then you have to set goals to help you achieve it.
Setting goals is easy, achieving them is another thing entirely. To achieve your goals you have to have many qualities; self confidence, determination, discipline, ambition, and courage.
You have to have confidence in yourself to accomplish anything. You have to believe in yourself that you have the potential and the required skills to acquire whatever it is your striving for.
Dreams are getting harder and harder to achieve these days with the many obstacles facing us; homelessness, poverty, inflation, and the ever-present threat of a nuclear war. Therefore, to get anything at all you have to have determination. And if you want to realize your goals and dreams you can’t let barriers stand in your way.
You have to overcome these obstacles, and the only way to do that is through hard work. Discipline yourself to where you have the patience to work towards your goals without getting frustrated and losing hope. Dreams are not realized overnight. Success has to be earned. You have to work hard for it otherwise it would not be success, it would be luck. And personally I would rather know that my dreams came about by my hard work and diligence, than to know that I got what I wanted just because I was lucky, otherwise I wouldn’t have it at all.
Something that stops dreams faster than anything else is to lose your ambitions. Don’t let anything get to you so much that you lose all hope. And don’t ever compromise your dream for something or someone else. Take advice from parents, relatives, and friends, try and view the situation from every possible angle, but ultimately you are the only one who knows what you really want, so don’t let anyone control your life by telling you what you want to do or who you want to become.
The final requirement needed to achieve the goals that you have set is courage. Have the courage to go for whatever it is you want. Don’t go along with everyone else. Not everyone wants the same things, therefore, you have to have the courage to follow your dream, because since it is yours alone, you are the only one that can truly make it happen.
I’d like to close with a poem by Robert Frost, that I’m sure you have all heard at one time or another and a wish that each and everyone of you will take the first step of setting your goals and have the courage to do what it takes to make all your dreams come true.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.