My youngest son, Noah was the Salutatorian of his graduating class this June. I thought he wrote an extremely heartfelt and relevant speech for the graduation ceremony.
So I asked him if I could post his speech as part of my series of young guest bloggers. He agreed, probably because I am his mom. I don’t care if that was why…I am glad he did.
So here is his speech. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (and yes, I cried)
I would like you to meet Noah Schweiger. Noah will be attending Misericordia University this fall and will be majoring in Speech and Language Pathology. He is a quiet, thoughtful, quirky, intelligent, gentle young man. He has kind heart and a massive capacity for helping people. These are the thoughts he chose to share with his classmates:
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.” These words by poet Patrick Overton are a great way to describe our situation here today. All of us are taking a step into the unknown, into that new darkness. All of us are splitting up, and going our own way. Some of us are going to college, others into the military, or into the workforce, even the parents here today are taking a new step when they walk their child down this aisle to receive their diploma. Change, in and of itself, is always scary and difficult. Yet life is always changing. Every day is different from the one before. Every day is a new unknown.
Some in here will take that step into the unknown and find themselves on solid ground. For them, things won’t change very much at all. A few will take that step and soar like an eagle, adapting to the changes in their life with ease. Most of us however, will take that step, and not find solid ground awaiting us. We will have trouble flying at first: leaving home, the weight of college debt, boot camp, or real world bills, pulling us down. Some of us will struggle to learn. Some will find the many changes overwhelming. Some of us will feel that they may never fly.
Remember that you have, up until this point, consistently conquered each and every change that life has thrown your way. So don’t panic. If you feel as though your wings are not strong enough, then think outside the box. Maybe to fly you need to simply build yourself a plane. Find another path to take. There is always another way if you take the time to look for it. Each choice you make and path you take has its own risks but it also has its own rewards. Denzel Washington once said, “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. FALL FORWARD. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.” Just because you don’t fly easily doesn’t make you’re a failure. It makes you wiser. You’ve had to learn a different way to succeed. I believe everyone sitting here today will succeed in their own way, at their own time. Every single one of us will fly, but no two of us will do so in the same exact way.
I know almost everyone here is worrying about the unknown future that awaits them. Will I like my roommate, will I like my classes, will I succeed? There are a limitless number of worries for everyone sitting here. However you will never know what will happen if you don’t take that step into the unknown darkness. Esmeralda Santiago is right in saying: “How can you know what you are capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown?”
How can you know? Everyone is scared to go off on their own, to feel alone. However you are never truly alone. You have your family, friends, and loved ones. You aren’t the first to take these steps, and you certainly won’t be the last. Although everyone has different experiences every day, those who have taken similar steps as you will be able to help. This year I was the lead of the Drama club play. I had never had to say more than 20 lines on stage in front of an audience. This year I had close to 200 lines! It was one of the most nerve-racking things I think I had ever done at that point in my life. However that doesn’t compare to my sister. In college she went to Italy for the summer. No one in our entire family had traveled so far, let alone by themselves. Not only that, but she is just returning from living for two years in Arizona. Again she left, on her own, to an unknown place with unknown people. She didn’t have a place to live, she didn’t know the area, and she didn’t know any one there. She had so many unknowns, so much darkness, and no one’s foot steps to follow, but she knew we were there for her, supporting her choices every step of the way. She is a great example of diving into the darkness and coming out on top. She not only survived the unknown, she thrived.
When you feel overwhelmed and afraid by what is happening in your life, take a moment to reflect on all of the examples of strength and courage the people in your life have shown you. Think about how many challenges and ‘unknowns’ your parents face every day. Yet they endure. They face each new day bravely…and usually with a smile. My parents and my older siblings have an amazing way of getting through all of the challenges they face with love and laughter. What better example could I have? You too have footsteps to follow and people who will cheer you on and support your choices. Today, maybe we should take a minute to thank them for all that they do and for helping us get this far.
Let me leave you with something I’ve learned from my parents, brothers, and sister: be brave. Go out and do new things because every step you take will bring you a different experience. You might as well take as many as you can, and learn from each one. There are no wrong steps to take as long as you learn and grow with each one. Remember that you will never have to take a single step alone. You will always have family, friends, and loved ones to help you when you need them. So try to spread your wings and fly because they will be the wind under your wings. I’d like to end with a quote from Mother Teresa. Something I want everyone here to think about: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Thank you.