This past Wednesday, May 21st, I was given the honor to be the guest speaker at the Mountain Vista Middle School 8th grade promotion. I have to tell you that for the first time in a long time, I was a bit nervous. I wasn't nervous about standing up in front of a crowd, but I was a bit nervous about what I should say. I had 5 minutes to inspire, motivate and congratulate a room full of teenagers preparing for high school, their teachers and their parents. What could I possibly say to them, in such a short time?
I spent quite a few days going through ideas in my head but none of them really seemed to "cut it". Sure I was going to tell them that I was proud of them, but how much of an impact would that have on them? Most of them had no idea who I was. Acknowledging the teachers, parents and others that supported the students was important of course, but I couldn't do that for 5 minutes. I sure couldn't tell them that life was going to get easier as they got older and that high school was going to be nothing but positive memories. I couldn't even talk to them about career choices especially since most of them wouldn't be in the workforce for close to 10 years and who knows what type of jobs will be available to them then? How could I help them plan for a tomorrow that none of us know anything about? Well I couldn't. So I stopped thinking about what I needed to say to them and started thinking about what I wish people would have said to me 'back then'.
So what did I say to them? Without boring all of you with the entire speech, I decided to explain that growing old is not the same as growing up. I asked them to think about "how" they were going to grow up and asked what kind of man or woman they wanted to become. I asked them to be bold, innovative and compassionate, reminding them that the world they live in today is not the world they need to live in tomorrow. I explained that they are the heroes of our future destined to change the world. I asked them what kind of world they want to build out there and begged them to come up with grand plans, because we could really use some right about now.
As I looked out at those students during my speech, I was surprised to see they were listening. They were nodding, smiling, engaging with my words. They seemed to 'get it'. As eighth graders they already believe that they can build a world they want to live in, that they can make changes.
After I sat down, I listened to 8th graders speak to their classmates, I saw classmates genuinely proud of those students receiving additional recognition. I saw them support each other, care about each other and believe in each other. I watched some of the teachers tear up, as the students walked by shaking our hands knowing that they were moving on and honestly so did I. The 8th grade students of Mountain Vista Middle School are going to do big things! While I had been asked to come in and inspire our youth, our youth inspired me.
Thank you for allowing me to participate in the Mountain Vista Middle School 8th grade promotion. It was a great moment to reflect knowing that the kids we care about are doing just fine and they’re on the right path.
Go Big Wolverines! You got this!