I’ve been thinking about this talk for weeks.
After three years together what do I want to leave you with. What is one last thing I can teach you? One last message that I was not able to convey in assemblies or on service trips, in English class or Life Skills, during activities, or in the hallways?
How can I sum up the myriad of lessons I still want to teach you in a five min speech?
I had a whole outline designed about the power of living the mission. I even wrote half of it but then I heard the voice.
I have been hearing the voice since I was your age. And judging by the way you all look at me sometimes I have no doubt that you hear the voice too.
The voice of which I speak is the voice of the cynic. And I think it is hatched when we turn 13.
- The voice of the cynic is mistrustful and scared. It is insecure and afraid to take chances.
- The voice of the cynic wants to be accepted and becomes louder in crowds, putting people and ideas down in order to feel popular.
- The voice of the cynic loves the status quo, cliques and political parties.
- The voice of the cynic is selfish and easily bored. It rolls its eyes and sighs heavily.
- The voice of the cynic sees the worst in every situation and rarely tries. It sees failure where others see opportunity.
- The voice of the cynic gossips and complains, highlighting problems and ridicules solutions.
The voice of the cynic could go on and on and on.
You see. It is loud even for me.
I was going to start with the mission, but the voice told me:
They won’t want to hear it. They are sick and tired of the mission and the skills and qualities. And the elements and the smiling posters of kids and the slogans and the whole thing.
And so with the voice yelling, I sat at my computer alone in the silence.
Like I so often do after spending time on Twitter or in the comments of articles online. You see the cynical voice loves the internet, because it is echoed there, full blast- on repeat.
But there is another voice. Close your eyes. Listen. What else do you hear? Can you hear it? What might it say?
- This is the voice of the idealist. The dreamer. The artist. The activist. The writer. The teacher. This is the voice of love and generosity, of revolution and learning.
- The voice of the idealist is trustful and unafraid. It is secure and courageous.
- The voice of the idealist doesn’t need to be accepted and doesn’t put things down in order to feel popular. The voice of the idealist seeks out the voiceless and champions the underdog.
- The voice of the idealist loves diversity and has a tolerance for ambiguity.
- The voice of the idealist is selfless and never bored. It smiles and hugs and dances alone.
- The voice of the idealist sees the best in every situation and always tries its best. It sees solutions where others see problems.
- The voice of the idealist listens more than it speaks.
- The voice of the idealist could go on and on and on.
So my message to you is this-
You will hear both voices for years to come. You might be in class, or on trips, at parties or all alone and you will have to decide which voice to listen to.
I am not so naive as to expect you to ignore the cynical voice and follow the ideal, because the cynic in me knows better than that.
But I can ask that you to try and listen to both. Question both. And in any given situation ask yourself which voices is needed and why?
In a short time you will walk into the Main Hall with 200 of your classmates. It will be awkward and weird and exciting and awesome. You might not know what to with your hands or where to go when you walk in. You will look for familiar faces and open arms to let you know that you belong.
The cynic will tell you to judge and make fun and exclude. To stand with the pack and wait.
The idealist will tell you to jump and dance and sing and build a group, a tribe, a community that includes everyone.
The one thing I ask of you on this night is tell the cynic in you to take a break.
This is your night to celebrate and have fun. This is the idealists night. Listen as it tells you to ask that boy or girl to dance. To invite other groups to join you on the dance floor. To take photos and smile. To be alive and bask in the voice of the idealist in you.
Thank you all for bringing so much joy in my life for the last three years. It has been my pleasure to be your head of grade. You have taught me more than you will ever know.
Have a great night. You have earned it. I love you and let the party begin.