Check against delivery.
Good evening and congratulations to the Sussex Regional High School graduating class of 2017!
I have to begin by telling you this… I give speeches all the time but this one is different. This one is really special and it is making me a bit nervous! Mostly because I am standing on this stage 25 years to the day of my own graduation from SRHS!
I am feeling a lot of pressure to say smart things. To do it well and to really inspire you tonight.
What also makes tonight special is that many of your parents were on this stage with me 25 years ago. And what’s making this a little easier is that your parents and I are all trying to remember who spoke at our graduation.
The truth is, it isn’t because the speech that night wasn’t inspiring. In fact, it was given by a man I had a lot of respect for: former Principal Don Reicker. Once I was reminded, it did come back to me. I remember he was calm and confident. He was talking directly to us as a class.
Because it was 1992, he wasn’t talking to the world via Youtube. No snapchat moments. No selfies. We were in the moment. In hindsight, that was nice. Now? Twenty five years later? It’s not just you and me. This speech has the potential to be filmed and streamed and tweeted and uploaded.
My point is not that I hope this speech goes viral, it’s that the world has become so much smaller.
We are all part of a global community in 2017. There is every bit as much chance that something or someone great can be discovered in Sussex, New Brunswick as London, England or New York City.
It’s a little scary when you are standing at a mic saying that but it’s also very exciting! It means every opportunity in the world is accessible to you.
So, I’d like to start my message tonight by taking a few minutes to talk about your parents and all the people here tonight because they love you. Since we were all here 25 years ago, we have a bit of a different perspective on what high school graduation means.
We realize that you think this day is all about you and it mostly is but it’s also about the people who raised you… they invested a bit of time in this accomplishment of yours. Remember, your education started with potty training.
The years have had their ups and downs but at the end of the day they succeeded, have almost survived the teenage years…and they didn’t disown you! Chances are they aren’t done with you yet. They are probably going to stick around for you a bit longer now that you made it up here tonight! This day … you call it your graduation day but it’s theirs too.
Take a minute and pose for one more picture later tonight…indulge them. They deserve it. Parents, especially 1992 Alumni, I salute you and I hope to join your ranks of freedom in just a few more years!
So back to you. You ready?
So most graduation speeches talk an awful lot about dreams. Dream and dream big. Don’t ever stop dreaming. Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone take your dream.
Would you like the truth? Dreaming is fun. A lot of people dream. In fact, there are some pretty amazing dreams out there. Dreams usually start with a stare into the sky. A thoughtful look. And then the words, “I want to…or…I wish I could…”
At the same time, there are other people, the real go getters, the engaged powerful people. They are busy DOING.
Don’t get me wrong. The dreamers aren’t all hippy dippy. They come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, we are all dreamers at times. Sometimes we do it in fancy clothes, sometimes we do it when we get a mic in front of us.
Sometimes it’s when you are driving along back roads, maybe it’s in your journal or maybe when you talk to your friends. That’s fine. It’s cool. Just don’t get stuck there too long. Because not much really happens when you are in that place. You can blue-sky it your whole life but then they will always just be dreams. Ones that always need to be tweaked or abandoned because something else in life actually happened while we were dreaming.
You have to go further than being a dreamer. You have to be a doer. You have to take the plunge and work towards your dream.
It’s hard work that will make your dream come true and no one wants your dream more than you do. No one is going to make your dream come true for you.
Now, having said that, you don’t have to wait until you have a perfect plan. Just keep moving forward. It may not fit your vision exactly but the reality is that your dream may look different at the end than when you set out…it might be better!
So, for instance, if you “Wish you could travel” start by getting a job…any job. It’s always easier to find a job when you already have one and the last time I checked, you will need some cash for that dream.
Are you dreaming of becoming a business owner? Get a job and start watching the business owner and what makes them successful. Ask them questions.
You will be surprised how many people will want to help you reach your dream if you are already doer!
I have to tell you. I did not dream of being a Member of Parliament. Never. I just didn’t see it. It evolved from all the experiences I have had since leaving this stage. It came from realizing over time what I was good at. It came from taking one opportunity as it presented itself and learning something about myself each time.
You know what I actually wanted to be? I wanted to own a car dealership. I literally blue-skyed it and dreamed of advertising with a hot-air balloon at the Sussex Balloon Fiesta. Don’t believe me? I have the business case from Mr. Stafford’s Entrepreneurship 12-0 class to prove it.
So what happened to that dream? Here is the VERY abbreviated version. Well, I went to University after high school. Took a Business Administration course. Realized they didn’t teach me how to own my own business. Got a job. Became a Human Resources Manager. Saved a bit of money. Realized I was pretty good with people and understanding their concerns and challenges. Purchased a Bridal Shop. Grew it over 13 years. Got involved in municipal politics as a Councilor. Realized the business wasn’t my final chapter. Got inspired by the idea of Real Change for Canadians. Started talking about a dream to run for federal politics. Started doing the things I needed to do to get there. People started helping me and here I am.
I am sharing my story with you just as an example of how life can take twists and turns and how sometimes you can find yourself living a life you may not have dreamed of but somehow it probably relates back to some core desire you have here today.
When you have your whole future ahead of you it’s really scary. We talked about how the whole world is out there for you to tackle. But the reality is that the real world is hard and often unfair. High school is awesome. You are special here. You’ve spent the last year being the Grad Class. You have been working your whole life to achieve this goal. And you did it!
Tomorrow you start all over again. You start working towards a new dream all over again.
Which brings me to what I consider, Lesson number two.
Here’s the thing. Yes, it is hard out there. But hard is relative. You are a High School graduate in the most amazing country in the world. You have freedom of speech, a voice, rights, and a true chance at success.
Eventually you will get over the fact that you aren’t being celebrated as a Grad anymore and in a few weeks hopefully you will be able to put your anxieties in perspective and be thankful that you do have that future in front of you.
While you are getting perspective on the future in front of you, think about paying it forward in thanks for all the people and acts that helped you achieve this goal of graduating.
Find a cause you love. You are going to be really busy for the next while trying to get the ball rolling on your new dream.
You have a lot of doing to do so you only need to pick one cause. One way you can pay it forward in this community, in your new school, or in the world. Then commit time and effort to a cause. Don’t just hashtag it. Do something.
Volunteer some hours. You can make the world better for someone else who is having a tough go. Plus it shows you appreciate the good things that do happen to you.
Now, you are going to have your dreaming, your doing, and your paying forward going on and someone is going to look at you and say, “How do you do it!?”
They are going to be amazed. They are going to think you have super powers. You are going to smile nicely and say to them, “Oh I am just really organized” or “Well you know I got great advice at my graduation and I can balance it all now” but you are already going to know the secret I am going to share with you. One that not everyone must know because they are still out there asking the “How do you do it” question. Not everyone will be happy I shared this secret with you but you need to know it so you won’t be scared to push yourself to do a little more each day.
So SRHS Grads of 2017: As you try to figure out the impossible task of juggling work, school, community-engagement, and dreaming. You need to know the real answer to “How do you do it all”. The answer is this: You don’t. At least I don’t.
Everyone, including you, only has 24 hours in a day. I can tell you that whenever I am focused and succeeding in one area of my life, I am probably trading off another part that is just as important.
If I am in Ottawa and get great press for standing up for Atlantic Canadians, then I am probably missing Junior Prom, Academic Awards, and ice cream on the last day of school with my daughter.
If I am taking a few days off with my family, I am probably missing a community event that I should be at. If I am killing it in a committee meeting, I am probably late for another meeting with a really great organization.
Someone shared an analogy with me last year that really resonated with me.
When you start something new, it feels like you are going 100 miles an hour and you are looking for the brakes. After a while, you realize, there are no brakes and you just learn to drive that fast. It’s true but you also still always feel a little overwhelmed about the things that fly by you as you chart your course. You can’t help but always miss a few things along the way. It’s a trade off.
So, if anyone tells you that they have it all together, that they are just really organized, or one of those other normal lines…they are fibbing a bit but they are probably a dreamer and a doer.
So, if I have scared you, I’m sorry. I really want you to leave here excited and ready to take on the world. For you to go forward like grads of SRHS have done for years and be awesome in the world!
My point tonight, is that it’s OK if you don’t leave here with it all together. My point is that it can be scary to graduate. That you can have an ambitious dream that you may have to let go of but it’s not failure. It’s just that in the real world, life is hard, stuff happens, and it’s difficult to balance.
And yet, you can still wake up every single morning and say, “I have a dream and I am a doer. I am doing things I am proud of and I don’t know exactly where I am going but if I keep moving forward then good things will come”.
You can still wake up one day and find yourself living a life you never even imagined could exist. You can wake up one day and find that you are interesting and powerful and engaged. You can wake up one day and find that you are a doer.
So which ones of you will it be?
Which members of the 2017 class are going to find themselves standing up here sharing wisdom 25 years from now. Or better yet 10 years from now because I am sure many of you are a faster doers than I am!
Graduates, every single one of you, be proud of your accomplishments. Make good on your diplomas.
You may still be a work in progress but you are now citizens of the real world. You have a responsibility to become a person worthy of joining and contributing to society.
Because you are no longer the leaders of tomorrow. You are the leaders of today.
So be brave.
And every single time you get a chance?
Stand up in front of people.
Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.
Grads of 2017, I wish you the very best of luck.
Congratulations and Go Be A Doer!!