Sunday, February 19, 2006

Closing remarks at graduation 2005

I can feel the energy and the anticipation of celebration both here on the stage and throughout the school, so I promise to be brief. Plus, this is Saipan and I don’t want any of you to melt in this June heat.

Many of you graduates have taken my class, so you know I am straight up, so expect no variation from that now.
High school graduation is the greatest day of your young lives. College graduation day pales in comparison to this day. Today you have taken your biggest step into adulthood, a status that holds far greater responsibility. There are values and traits that will carry you far in this next stage of life: hard work, compassion, honesty, intellectual curiosity and active community involvement – these are values that will never go out of style and can never be downsized.
History has told us that one man, or woman, can make a huge difference on the world. You need not look far from the examples set by Martin Luther King, former President Franklin Roosevelt, who got his country through WWII and the Great Depression in a wheelchair, or even someone active in the music and political world today: Bono, the lead singer of U2, who does the right thing with his fame and power by speaking out and working for the weak and the poor.

From our determination to work together, we have built not just a good school, but a great school with a fair and compassionate leader in your principal, Mr. Le’au, who deserves a round of applause.

I think I speak for all the teachers in saying we are all proud to see how you have grown, and we look forward to seeing your future accomplishments. You have set a standard for character and caring, and you inspire us as teachers.

I have had the pleasure of enjoying your company over the years, and several of you made a strong impression on me, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least some of you specifically, but please forgive me if I still possibly butcher the pronunciation of your names. So to: Anthony Taitingfong, Mismar Misaro, Francisco Blas, Tonya Pangelinan and of course, Mr. Saipan, the one and only Triple B, Magellan Borja. You five, along with many others, have inspired me to be a better teacher.

It is my sincere hope you will always remember and cherish your experiences from these past four years. I am confident you have the knowledge and skills to thrive in your post-high school life, and that leaves me to my final piece of advice: Don’t just “go,” but go and “excel” in college. I have always tried to give you practical motivation, so let me speak only to the guys for a moment: There are a lot of gorgeous girls on college campuses, even an “old guy” like me knows that, and you guys won’t be dating those girls getting D’s, so if books and learning don’t motivate you, for the love of God, let the beauty of those college girls motivate you. Please guys, trust me on this one.

Having said that, let me speak to the young ladies for a moment. These same guys will grow-up some day, I promise you. Don’t lower your standards, and don’t date the slackers. Their attraction to you is my best motivational tool to get them to perform academically.

On top of the romantic motivation for going to college, let me offer a second motivation: more money in your pockets. I’ve told you guys repeatedly, and the facts back me up here, your chances of being broke increase dramatically without a college degree, and beyond that a graduate school degree, which is practically required these days.

I don’t want to see you working in the 99 cents store as a clerk, I want to see you guys in law offices and hospitals and science laboratories, and while it is a bit too late to give you guys extra credit, to all you future scientists, I promise a whole lot of extra credit to your kids down the line if any of you can come up with the cure for baldness.

I know you all have the heart, self-confidence, and courage to face life’s challenges as you build your world, brighten the lives of those around you and give back to your communities.

In closing, I have but one request: We are not finished with each other today. This is not good-bye. Heck, I’ll probably bump into some of you at the post office tomorrow, this is still Saipan after all. And remember you never saw me in any establishment my new wife Cynthia wouldn’t want me to be in – you only saw me in the library preparing lessons. It was some other short, stocky, yet handsome, bald white guy you saw in the Garapan clubs.
You are about to become Saipan Southern alumni, and you are all invited to visit us during your college vacations – unless you want to borrow money, in that case go directly to the office of Mr. Le’au or Dr. Inos, your commissioner. They are higher up the salary scale than us teachers. But seriously, email us, continue to be involved in the success of the school you helped create. Advise your younger friends and siblings about the importance of learning and school, and remember, you are always a member of the Manta Ray family. Thank you for your time, and congratulations to you all, and let me bellow out the words many of you have been dying to hear:
Nothing, homework, neh!!

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