Principal’s Address to seniors, 2014
Though there have been struggles through the years, this class never gives up. Now is the time to celebrate the fruits of your labor. Each one of you is unique, and will impact our society in your own unique way.
It’s been said that life is a journey. Everyone has their own journey to take, each of you walking your own route. Some of you will travel down well worn paths, others will blaze exciting new trails – but whatever you do, wherever you go, your journey will be largely up to you. Mark Twain wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I think he captured the sentiment I want to encourage each of you with tonight.
Your teachers, principals, and parents have all spent a considerable amount of time over the past 17 or 18 years telling you to be careful and teaching you to play it safe. While those instructions have their place, there also comes a time to throw caution to the wind and take some chances. I believe that time for you has arrived.
So how do we move from the safety of this sheltered harbor your families and your school have provided and begin the risky passage into the unknown?
First I believe you need to take the right chances. Life is precious, and fragile. The risks I encourage you to take are calculated ones. I’m not up here encouraging you to throw yourselves headlong into the abyss without a parachute, but to take Twain’s advice and risk exploring, dreaming, and discovering. What is that dream you hold that too many people have tried to steal, too many people have told you that you could never achieve? Don’t believe them. Better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
Second, I believe you have to pack correctly. Every journey requires its own unique baggage. Some travels require lots of luggage, correct clothing, specialized tools, for other excursions you need to pack light. Do you best to use the tools you have been given by family, friends, and teachers. Don’t forget the lessons you have learned; pack them in your suitcase or backpack and use them on the road ahead. There’s no one correct wardrobe that meets the needs of every traveler and every journey. Find out what fits you, and pack your life with it.
Third, be ready to improvise. There is no guidebook to completely cover the challenges ahead. Life is a messy journey full of twists, turns and adventure. Look for things you can use along the way. Meet new people, learn from their experiences as well as your own. Don’t waste experience, good or bad, each teaches us something useful if we’ are open to learn. When one plan fails, make a new one. When one dream fades from view, take in everything around you – there’s always a new one waiting. Improvise.
Fourth, look back from time to time. A good traveler knows that the trail can look surprisingly different going one way from the way it looks coming back. The old boy scout or woodsman trick is to take in landmarks as you go, but to always remember to glance back and take a look at things behind you. Hopefully there are many things behind you now that will serve as landmarks to guide you on your travels. Hopefully the lessons you have learned from teachers, family, and friends, will help you keep your bearings and keep you safely on your way. Don’t forget these things as you expand your experiences on the roads ahead.
Finally, I return to a piece of advice I believe each of you already understands. Never give up. When all seems lost, keep pushing on. Try a new path. Backtrack and begin again. Find a fellow traveler to walk with you and encourage you. Do whatever it takes, but never, never quit. Jack Kerouac writes, “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
Take your road. Live your life. Explore. Dream. Discover. We are all proud of you. I am proud of you.
Good luck and Godspeed, class of 2014. The Journey is yours.