When I receivedword that I had been invited to speak here this evening, I wasboth surprised and delighted. Given the dozens of teachers whohave addressed you in the last thirteen years, to be selectedas the last to do so is an honor I shall treasure for a very longtime.
Commencement addresses are usually painted in broad strokes dealingwith high ideals and great expectations. Impossible dreams madepossible. The wrongs of earlier generations made right. Leavingthe world a better place than you found. All these things arepossible with the class of 1992. After all, the raw talent isthere. That talent, combined with hard work and a little goodfortune, can turn all of you into world beaters.
A cure for cancer, or more sound management of the earth's limitedresources, are things that may come about in your lifetime, maybewith a significant contribution from someone in this room. Butsuccesses like that are like Christmas day, or your birthday,or high school graduation. They are special events, but they arefew in number. And they are separated by lots of ordinary days.It is your life during those ordinary days that I wish to underlinethis evening
The happiness you draw from your life will depend in large measureon the quality you build into those ordinary days this fall betweenthose home runs of your dreams. I must stress to you that youneed to plan that time. Your happiness is too important to youto leave to chance. Pledge to yourself that, if not tonight thanin some private moment very soon, you will lay out a broad schemeof what should happen in your life and then work toward achievingthat plan. Let me offer some guide posts.
All of you will have to earn a living. Choose an occupation youenjoy, something you like to do. And then do it well. Avoid ifyou can being coerced into livelihood that meets someone else'sneeds rather than your own. This may mean that you are not thehighest wage earner in your community. Please remember the successis not always measured by the number of dollars you can call yourown. Some of you are delaying the job issue while you study elsewhere.Please understand that this is only a temporary delay and is adelay that will only heighten the expectations of others and pressurethat follows.
Most of you will enter what are hopefully permanent relationshipswith others. Choose your partner carefully. If your lover is abusive,find another lover. Marry for love rather than lust. Marry outof commitment rather than convenience. Don't let anyone push youinto marriage unless you are convinced it will work. You deservethe very best.
And what about children? Please have children. I need studentsfor my classes. But sire and bear those children when you areready -- -- ready emotionally. financially, spiritually. Avoidstarting a family because someone you love wants grandchildren.Bring children into the world when their is stability in yourlife. Avoid a temptation to have children because somehow theycan cause stability to happen. They usually don't. While a judgemay dissolve a marriage with the strokes of a pen, your childrenare there for ever.
Please understand that this podium is not a pulpit; I am not attemptingto moralize in these very personal matters. I will leave thatfor Mr. Quayle. My point of view is entirely pragmatic. If yourwedding day is the happiest day of your life, does it make senseto enter the marriage that is doomed to failure? If children areso hard to raise today, does it make sense to have to raise themalone.
You need to become a contributing member of your community, whereveryou live. Volunteer your time. Serve on a municipal board. Coacha Little League team. Be a den mother. Find a place to help andget involved. Not for what can get out of the experience but forwhat you for you can give to it. For 18 years, someone has beendoing for you; now is your turn to do for others. As an example,some of you have received word recently of scholarship aid, maybefrom some nebulous organization populated by nameless people.They worked hard to give you boost along. I must remind you thatwhile we sit in this hall tonight, children are playing in yardsand playgrounds around the city. When it is their turn to sitin this room, will they have received a similar boost from you.They should. But you will have to work to make it happen.
In 22 years of teaching, as the strangest talk I have ever given.This many minutes without a joke, without a wisecrack, withoutany mention of the physics I love. But this odd train of thoughtis in keeping with the bittersweet day that this is. You are gatheredhere today to celebrate a significant accomplishment of your youth.At the same time you are shedding the last vestige of youth withall the protection that goes with it. From now on, your achievementswill be those of an adult; and so too will be the failures. Therewards for success are richer; the penalties of failure of moresevere. Society said "grow up" and you did. Now societysays grow wiser as you grow older.
Tonight you have gathered with you all the friends and familyyou hold dear to celebrate this moment. Sadly, it is the lasttime you all the together in the same place at the same time.Tonight, you are the centers of attention, decked out and purpleand white. Tomorrow, you join us ordinary people on an ordinaryday.
It is time I close this homily; there are well-deserved diplomasto be collected at these tables. You invited a teacher here, youget a homework assignment. It is: take care to make every dayof your life as meaningful as you can. If your life turn out tobe enjoyable, you get an <A>. If it is sometimes interesting,you get a <B>. If your life is only tolerable, you get a<C>. My little friends, there are no other passing gradesand this is a test you cannot afford to fail. There is no makeup.
My will family teases me that they cannot take me anywhere withoutrunning into a former student. That's one of the benefits of beinga teacher. Tonight, you join the ranks of former students. Shouldour paths cross, please say hello. I would love to hear abouthow you're doing. And should our paths never cross again aftertonight, good luck. Have a good life.
Good night. And may God bless you all.