Triad Commencement Speech
Triad Board of Education
Triad Superintendent Leigh Lewis
Friends and Family of the graduates
And a special shout out to Dr. Rodney Winslow
Today marks a very big day in the life of everyone in attendance.
· For the Triad Board of Education, who continues to work diligently to make sure that students have the tools and funding needed for exemplary education as well as a safe environment.
· For the Triad faculty, who have dedicated their profession to educating students by bringing their expertise and dedication to the classroom.
· For the graduates, who have worked endless hours preparing for tests, working on class projects, making friends and memories.
· For the friends and family of the graduates, who have continuously shown support for our graduates.
I spoke with the parents of the students earlier and was so impressed to learn that each and every one of these students, sitting in front of me:
· Got up every morning early, without being awaken by their parents
· Spent hours on their homework without being asked by their parents
· Came home a half hour earlier than curfew
· Had a great attitude every single day
The truth is that parents – you are going to miss those times.
Memories are something we have the ability to keep forever. Let’s take a moment to lock this moment into everyone’s mind.
Do me a favor – everyone please clasp your hands and close your eyes. Don’t worry – I am not going to go through your purses!
Triad graduates - let’s build a picture memory of this day.
· Think about how you feel – the excitement of the day and what it took to accomplish to get where you are today.
· Think about the people around you – your friends, family and others that are here with you today.
· Think about those who could not be here today, for whatever reason. Some have passed on but we want to be sure to remember them.
· Think about the idea that this will be the last day you will be in this gym as a Triad student.
· Think about the many teachers who have inspired you throughout your life.
· Think about the many friends you have met over the years.
· Think about the fun times you have had and those for which you have spent that time.
· Think about now. Right now. Where you are.
Parents and attendees – it is your turn.
· Think about your graduate when they were five, just starting school. Boy, has the time flown.
· Think about how proud you are of your graduate, reaching a big milestone in their life today. Right now. At this moment.
· Think about how your graduate will soon be moving on with their own life and their own experiences. Know that even though they didn’t want you to think they were listening, they were.
Triad faculty – I didn’t forget about you
· Think about the lightbulbs that went off, right in front of you, when your students got it!
· Think about the hours and hours and hours of preparing and grading papers and the extra time you gave to your students. It does not go unrecognized.
· Think about how you, one person in this world, have provided guidance, support and an amazing education to the graduates in front of you.
It is about being present today and in your life. I hope this mental picture stays with you for your entire life. Please open your eyes.
We have talked about your supporters – and there are many. But what about those who do not support you. Yes, they are out there. For whatever reason, people often feel the need to discourage people from pursuing their passion and living their dream. I have actually experienced that situation first hand.
When I was 18, I had just graduated from high school and I wasn’t sure what I was going to be when I grew up. I was waitressing until I figured out my next step. One night at work, a family friend asked me what my plans were for the future. I told him at this point I wasn’t sure. He said “you know, you will never be anything. You will be working as a waitress your whole life.” He went on to say “all three of my kids are in college and doing well.” And he went on to mention each college and his child’s chosen profession.
To say the least, I was completely stunned. Now I am much older today and I still remember where I was standing, the look on his face, the feeling in my gut that sunk. And at 18, I believed him.
Well, things get better … trust me. I decided that I would go to college so I started at the community college. We had not planned for me to go to college and we sure didn’t have the money. I made an appointment with a college counselor, explained my situation, and not only was my first year paid for but they gave me a job on campus.
I went on to graduate with an Associate’s Degree. It was a great accomplishment. As I was addressing my graduation announcements, I couldn’t help but remember the conversation I had with that gentleman so many years before. So, I filled out a graduation announcement and sent it to him. Of course, my intent was never for him to attend but I wanted him to see that I had made something of myself.
And then I went on to get my Bachelors. And guess what! He received another invitation. Then I went on to get two Master’s Degrees. The announcement was mailed.
Oh, and then I wrote a book – yes, you got it. I sent him an autographed copy.
In 2003 I received the Key to the City from the City of Troy. I sent him the picture and article from the newspaper. Last year I received a second Key to the City from the City of Troy. The gentleman passed away in 2017 but I thought of him and how is negative words inspired me to be something.
Interestingly enough, when my mom attended his funeral, his wife whispered “let Dawn know he received all of her items. I think he regretted what he said to her many years ago. He kept everything she sent to him.”
I give you this story because no one, and I mean NO ONE, has the right to bring you down. If they consistently tell you that you can’t do something, they should not be part of your circle. Surround yourself with people who get you and want you to succeed. And you define what success means to you.
I am grateful for my tribe – that would be my supportive family and friends. I am one lucky person!
Sometimes we solicit the wrong people – people who don’t like us and we work hard to get them to like us. It is important that you do not spend a lot of time trying to get people to like you.
Here is an example:
This is an orange. Some people absolutely love oranges. The tartness and the juiciness. Some people hate oranges. They are hard to peel. They are too sweet. And some people can take an orange or leave it.
Here is the thing. The orange is just an orange. It is not going to change. Some people are going to like it and some are not and some are just going to tolerate it. You are the orange. Do not spend time with people who are not on your side. And do not work hard to get people to like you. Remember, you are an orange. Or you could be a banana. Whatever you want to be.
I am proud to be in the professional circle with so many past graduates.
· I am not sure if you are aware but Troy Mayor Allen Adomite is a Triad graduate. He has been an inspiration to me and as proof that you should never stop learning, Mayor Adomite has been accepted to U of I to complete his Doctorate in Public Administration. I truly wish him the best.
· Another graduate who has seen so much success is Carol Sparks. Carol went to law school and opened her firm, Sparks Law Office, in her hometown of Troy. She is one of the smartest and strongest women I know.
· We also have Shane McBride, who owns 557 Crossfit. Shane was an outstanding football player for Triad and is also a great mentor for so many.
· There have also been graduates who have passed on. Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith was killed in combat in 2009. Brad was an outstanding young man. Some of you have even received scholarships from his run. To date, the Smith family has given back over a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships.
You see, we live in a community where anything is possible and Triad graduates do great things. In a few minutes, you will be a Triad graduate and will be doing great things your entire life.
I am truly honored to be here today. You see, being a commencement speaker has been on my bucket list for over twenty years. I always thought it would be great to share some positive stories and tips with our future generations. I could not believe when Dr. Winslow called me and asked me if I could be the 2019 Triad commencement speaker. I was speechless. Dr. Winslow, I will never forget this day. Thank you.
As you may or may not know, I am the Executive Director of the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Chamber of Commerce. Our office is at the end of this driveway. For nineteen years, I have enjoyed every single minute of every single day. I knew when I took the job that it was for me. You must know that I left a job and took a 55% pay cut for this job.
You have to love what you do and have a passion for what you do.
· If you enjoy children, choose a career that you can work with them every single day.
· If you love computers, find that ideal job where you can write code or create websites.
· If you are going on to school, make sure that you are going for something you love, not what someone else loves.
· You have so many options – college, vocational school, the military, a job – whatever you want.
I only ask that you move out of your parents’ house soon so they can turn your room into an office! And moving to the basement does not count as moving out. You are welcome, parents!
I want to remind you to always be kind. Everyone is struggling with something.
· Choose to do three nice things for three people every single day. It will change your life.
· Find something that you love and volunteer to teach others.
· Or, another idea, when you need an internship, give us a call! I know, a shameless plug for the Chamber but we have hosted over 200 interns, several which were Triad graduates and they were the best.
Please hug those who came with you tonight and those who are also wearing a cap and gown. This day is very special and you deserve greatness in your future.
Last night I attended the Trace Adkins concert. Here are some parting words from one of Trace’s song:
You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
Thank you for this honor today. I will lock it into my picture memory forever.