I think I was 13th in my class, so I definitely didn’t get to speak at my school graduation. But if I could give a speech to graduates, it might sound something like this:
Today is a day of accomplishment and achievement. It is a reward for both you and your parents for the hours of work, the years of stress, the moments of weakness, and the time of your life. The fact is this group that is here today is a smaller group than the one that started four years ago. Bad decision, bad luck, moving, pregnancy, illness, and just being lazy has caused many of your childhood friends to not be here today. But not you.
Rather than remind you and congratulate you for what you have done we should look at what you are about to accomplish.
Bill Gates, once graduated high school
Oprah, once graduated high school
President Obama, once graduated high school
Neal Armstong, once graduated high school
These are great Americans that all have this one moment in common with you. A great moment, but not the one that defined their lives and their legacies.
Someone here today will do amazing things that will make you proud to be their classmate. And someone else here today will be the person that you all wonder “What happened to him?”.
Some of you will get to college next year and make superior grades, some of you will struggle, and others of you will simply not be able to hack it.
Some of you will get a job or go into the military. Some will stay home and help your parents. Some of you will travel the world. And some of you will simply end up being a stoner and never being heard from again.
Those great American’s all faced those same possibilities on this same day in their history. So what was different? And most importantly what will make it different for you?
There is no one magic recipe. Hard work is a common denominator. A little good luck is a common denominator. I believe that a common trait with all these greats is the fact that they dream.
This is my message to you graduates today. You must dream and dream BIG. There will be many days that you won’t want to go to class and stay in bed. You never sleep through your dreams. There will be days that you fail at work or with relationships. Your dream will still be a light in your future. You must hold on to these dreams and chase them.
And so you understand clearly…dreams are not goals. I believe goals are very important, but they are not the same. Graduating high school is a goal. Walking on the moon, now that’s a dream. Dreams should be so big and scary that you are almost embarrassed to tell anyone your dreams. By the sheer magnitude of those dreams you can be pulled toward greatness.
I always want you to realize that it is probably unlikely that you will ever achieve that dream, and that’s ok. The residual effect of the years and years of dream chasing will be the fuel that powers the truly amazing impact that you will make on the people in your life. And that, my friends, is the true secret to greatness…people.
As you go forward in life, chasing those dreams, understand that you cannot accomplish them alone; you need people and people, in turn, need you. My challenge to you is to not make today what you are remembered for. Dream big and dream loud. And love the people who you encounter along the way. That is your true legacy. That will be your true greatness. And that will be what you are remembered for.