Monday, July 22, 2013

Dr. Faulkner: Speaking to the Graduates

I had the great privilege to speak at the Sumner and Robertson County GED graduation ceremonies this year.  What I said to those graduates could just have easily been said to our students.  Here is what I said to those graduates:

Thank you for the invitation to speak and thank you graduates for letting me a part of your celebration today.

Congratulation to all the graduates.  I know this is a special time in your life because it marks a milestone in your journey and in your personal story.

I like stories particularly true life stories.

As I look out at you today, I know each of you has an individual story of how you came to this point in your life.  I wish we had the time today to hear from each of you.  Some of your stories involve unique circumstances.  All likely involve a series of choices – some good, some not so good.  Some of your stories may have elements of tragedy, sadness, and disappointment.  Some may be humorous even though at the time you didn’t feel like laughing. 

There is a country song titled Crooked Road.  It is not the currently popular Rascal Flat’s song about the broken road, but by an artist named Darrell Scott.  The chorus goes like this:

I walk a crooked road to get where I am going
To get where I am going I must walk a crooked road
And only when I’m looking back I see the straight and narrow
I see the straight and narrow when I walk a crooked road

While your journey to this place, to this time, to this accomplishment may have seemed like a crooked road, as you look back I hope you can see the straight and narrow that brought you here.

In this most recent chapter of your story, I don’t know what motivated you to want to get your diploma.  Maybe you were motivated by the desire for a better job.  Maybe you wanted a better life for you and your family.  Maybe you wanted to be an example for your children.

What ever your motivation, you are to be commended for your accomplishment.  I know the family and friends that have come today to celebrate with you are proud of you.

The things you have learned, the skills you have acquired will serve you well in the future.

But beyond the new found knowledge – the math and reading, and writing – science and social studies - beyond the subjects that you studied, - beyond the computer skills that you acquired, I suspect you have learned much about your self.

You have learned to persevere – to finish what you start.

You have learned to overcome the voices of doubt that said, “you are too old to be doing this” or, “you can’t do it” or that “you aren’t smart enough.”  Regardless if those voices were internal or external, you didn’t listen to the negative voices and you overcame.

You learned that fear will not stop you - that you can conquer your fears.

You have learned that though some times it is hard, you can work your way through the hard times to meet your goals.

You learned that you can succeed, that you can accomplish what ever you set your mind to.

And perhaps most importantly you have learned that you are not just a character swept along by fate or chance but you are the author of your own story.

And so my wish for you is that the accomplishment of today will just be the first step in a successful life.

One of the verses from Crooked Road says

I long to be a happy man, in this life that I’ve been given
In this life that I’ve been given I long to be a happy man.
When the noise turns to stillness, I see I have the makings.
I see I have the makings to be one happy man.

The accomplishment you celebrate today demonstrates that you do have the makings to be one happy man or one happy woman.

Now that you know your capabilities, I hope you have plans to continue your education.  Just a few days ago I read the story of a young woman from Meridian, MS.  Her name is Krista Lebrun and her story was titled from “GED to PhD.”  She went from high school drop out to a professor at the community college where she received her GED.  I hope I will see some of you on the campus of Volunteer State Community College this Fall.  When that happens, I hope you will stop me and remind me of our meeting today.

In conclusion, let me congratulate you again.  These ceremonies are known as commencements because it marks a beginning of the next phase of your life.  I’m confident the next chapter in your story will be a great one.  I can’t wait to hear it.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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