It’s time for my advice to graduates. This graduating class is one of the best- full of the coolest, quirkiest, and likely one of the most argumentative group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching. I have never realized up until this group of kids how much we, as teachers, really learn from students. But, this list of advice is transferable to all graduates- whether high school or college. You may not have been graced with the displeasure of being in one of my classes, but you can still take it from me (and the dead people). Here goes:
From the Bard:
“All the world’s a stage.” Yes, we are merely the players. You will go out into this world- you will explore and experiment- but remember that you have your exits and entrances and you will play many parts. Sometimes these parts will not be what you signed up for, or even tried out for, but you will have to play them. You will have to do your best to smile behind the facade of misery, you will have to learn to sometimes be someone you do not want to be. You will be required to dance the dance- use the accent- and change your appearance. You won’t want to because you don’t want to do something that you don’t want to do… but take it from me, if you can master this now, you will be better off. Don’t change your morals or character based on the part you have to play and remember who you really are. But these parts and roles are what you have to do at the time.
“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Do you, though. Even though you must play the part and your stage awaits you. Remember who you are. Don’t sacrifice your morals for power and don’t allow others to try and change you. People are envious and jealous of greatness- people will hate you for doing your job well. People will question your choices, they will challenge your decisions… but it’s better to be unpopular and your own person than what anyone else wants you to be. I see that I’ve unearthed a paradox with these lyrics and the advice from Shakespeare, but you have to remember that there is a time and and place for stubbornness. Stick to your guns when you know it’s the right thing to do and let it go when others will be hurt in the process. Trust me on that one.
“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” This one I mean. This one goes to the heart of what you all know I’ve taught you. If you see corruption and injustice, you must, and I mean MUST, challenge it. You have the power in your hands to truly make America great and the change the world around you- and that will only happen if people in power will stop corrupting the system- whether it be education, health-care, corporations, politics, or even nonprofit organizations- things will only change if you do something to change it. It’s your job to make the world a great place for your future children. Trust me (again) when I say your youth is short lived and you will find yourselves graduated from college soon, many starting families of your own. Look back at your adolescence, pick something unjust that matters to you, and challenge the heck out of it.
“I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you.” If people are wrong, don’t agree with them just because they are powerful. If people are wrong, tell them why you think so. Don’t fight just to fight, don’t argue just to argue. Research, understand the whole issue, and respectfully disagree. It’s okay to disagree.
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” Cliche, but true. They can. And you will all go out and change the world in your own way. You will be great. All you have to do is believe that. Remember that all change, both good and bad, have come from an idea, so trust yourself.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” This one is legit. Without your madness, you would not be who you are. Do not be afraid of it, do not hide your madness. Dance in the rain, sing in your car, bust a move in the grocery line, join clubs, act, write, do what keeps you madly young. The second you lose that will be the second you’ve officially ‘grown up’, which is no fun. I know because I’ve been grown up for a while.
“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” It’s Marley, so it has to be true. Other than that, though, remember that you must be real, but don’t get caught up in jealousy or hate. It will ruin you, your career, your family, yourself. There is not ONE good thing that comes from hatred. Jealousy will take you over and control you in a way you will never understand. Don’t let it.
“Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” Remember that your life is all you can control. If you are not happy with your life, you can change it. Others will get in the way, others will challenge you, others will try to make you miserable. They will. But only you can determine if they control you.
“Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.” Don’t ever forget this. You must always stand up for your (and other’s) rights. You have been granted an education- you have to use that in the best way possible. We all have rights, but not all are willing to fight for it. Remember when I say fight, that the pen is mightier than the sword (some other dead guy by the name of Edward Lytton). Use your voice, your words, your intelligence to stand up for humanity. Stand up against injustice- don’t let anyone tell you to sit down. Unless it’s in a movie theater… that’d just be rude because you’d be blocking everyone’s view.
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.” Sorry, that’s a long one, but it speaks for itself. You will hurt, you will struggle, you will wonder if you can go on. Finals in college are WAY harder than finals in high school. You will be asked to do things you have never done before. You will question people, you will be hurt by people you love and you will see hurt around you. You will be troubled. But find the beauty in the poetry around you.
“People always clap for the wrong reasons.” Holden is probably my favorite literary person in the whole wide world. He said what needed to be said and exposed the paradoxical problems that plague our life. He didn’t get it. You won’t get it. Hindsight is 20/20 but remember to always clap for the right reasons.
“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Remember that. Remember that you will have to answer for your choices someday. Make them good, live by your own conscience and trust yourself. It’s the only way. If you try to live by other’s consciences, you will be miserable and you will do things you yourself do not agree with.
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Ain’t that the truth. If you are scared to fail and don’t try, you are not courageous… but if you know it’s going to be hard and you know you will be facing adversity, and you do it anyway? Bravo.
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” Remember we are humans before we are anything else.
Okay, I have to stop. This is getting redundant, but so many cool people have said so many cool things that I couldn’t stop. I could go on for days, class of 2016, you know that. I have said enough, but I’ll leave you with this: The truth will always be exposed. Injustice will always be righted. Not in the ways we want, no in the ways we expect, but in their own time, they will. You have to believe that because if you don’t, it’s not a life worth living.