The Commencement Speech

Sunday afternoon, I will be giving the commencement address at East Webster High School’s graduation ceremony.

The students worked hard for 12 years and now are stuck hearing me. I know — what a letdown for them.

But for me, it’s a huge honor. And it’s one that I take seriously. I haven’t really thought about what I’ll say yet (I don’t write speeches, per se), but here are a few things I’ll touch on. This is what I’ve learned since I graduated a million years ago.

• Be resilient. Resiliency is something East Webster knows something about. A tornado zoomed up the Natchez Trace in 2011 and did quite a bit of damage to the school. But even a powerful twister couldn’t keep it down. Like my dad said when he was teaching me water skiing, “make the story about how you got back up, not how you fell down.” They have a good story. They got back up.

• Walls aren’t there to keep you out. Just so see how much you want something (note, I’m not talking about security fences, I mean obstacles.)

• Talent is dandy, but hard work is better. And attitude is the secret sauce. Like Banjo the dog, you have to have heart.

• You are a sum of your five closest friends.

• Never stop learning. The world is changing rapidly and you can’t afford to turn off your brain.

• Failure can be as good of a teacher as the best professor. But you have to learn to embrace it and learn from it. It’s not personal. It’s personal growth.

• Your worst moments can turn into your best. Cancer allowed me to help other people, made me appreciate life more and meet new friends. Being a janitor allowed me to meet my wife. Job hiccups have pushed my professional growth. The most dangerous place is the comfort zone.

Now, the trick is to figure out how to get all these things into a quick speech that won’t put the audience to sleep.

Wish me luck.

About Marshall Ramsey