First, let me state that it is an honor for me to serve on the Board of Education and to have the opportunity to say a few words on this special occasion.  It is a responsibility that I take very seriously and I assure you that I will continue to work diligently to ensure this path of success we are celebrating today will continue. 

You have had the good fortune to attend a quality public school.  You will meet others who were not so fortunate but that does not mean that they are any less worthy which leads me to my first point.

Take up a cause at some point in your life whether it be your career choice or a hobby.  I highly recommend at some point you read the book “Giving” by former president Bill Clinton.  It is a great introduction into the charitable good that is being performed in the world today and it is a pleasant distraction from the 24 hour news cycle on television.

Yours is a generation of involvement and optimism.  There are and there will continue to be serious and complex domestic and international problems to manage for the foreseeable future and I have no doubt that graduates sitting here today will be instrumental in solving them.  So remain optimistic and to quote Paul Harvey “I have never seen a monument erected to a pessimist.”  You hear it all the time but it bears repeating.  Life is short so make the most of it.  Which leads me to my second point.  Effort is everything.

As the coach of the Dallas Mavericks recently stated in an interview when asked how they won the NBA Championship when Miami seemed to have all the talent - 
He said “Talent is Overrated.”  There is a good book that addresses this issue that every student and parent should read titled MindSet - The new Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  While the book focuses on how individuals view themselves with respect a growth mindset or fixed mindset the real message is that everyone is capable of success however they define it by working hard and continuing to learn.  In this book she quotes Robert Sternberg, an intelligence expert who states whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability but purposeful engagement.”  Talent will only get you so far.   So as you enter college, the workforce, military or any other endeavor keep working hard to improve all of your skills because you while you think you may have it all planned out something is bound to change and those who focus on effort will overcome those changes more readily.

I’ll share two quick personal stories relating to effort that hopefully might resonate with some of you at some point in the near future.  I would have described myself as a slightly above average high school student but certainly not amongst the top academic performers in my class.  One of my best friends who I considered extremely intelligent was going to attend and be my roommate at Purdue University.  At the last moment he was accepted into an honors program at “The” Ohio State University and so we went our separate ways.  High school was very easy for him and he exerted little effort up to that point and received excellent grades.  I cannot tell you all of the circumstances that lead to his downfall but I know for a fact he did not put in the effort to succeed at Ohio State and as a result he eventually dropped out.  To this day he is bouncing from job to job still searching for his calling.  Again effort is everything.

Secondly, I don’t have too many regrets but a big one is not exerting myself at Purdue to the best of my ability.  I look back and regret how much more I could have learned and experienced during those precious years.  Fortunately, six years later after leaving the Navy I had the opportunity to do college the right way when I went back to school for a different field of study at Penn State.  Not only was it rewarding and beneficial to do well but it was fun.  So I urge you to not make the mistake I made and give whatever your next step is the best effort you can.  Do that and you won’t have any regrets in that area of your life.
Along with dedicating yourself to a cause and always focusing on effort, never quit learning.  We as a district have tried to instill in you the virtue of life long learning.  I am convinced that learning, not rote memorization, but true learning is the master key to the doors of happiness and success.  The more you learn and experience the richer and more joyful your life will be.  When you learn about wines they taste better, when you study philosophy you think clearer.  When you study history you gain a better perspective on the present and the future.  You will become a more interesting person.  Think about it, the alternative is to be uninteresting and live an uninteresting life.

I’m fairly certain that there has been at least one, if not more, special teacher, coach or other mentor during your schooling. 
Keep in touch with them.  Send them a letter or email occasionally to let them know how your are doing or how much they meant to you.  It is a simple gesture that will make their day.

And to the proud parents I am sure this day has come too quickly since these students entered kindergarten and possibly not fast enough when they became teenagers.  Graduates, you have no idea as to the amount of time, effort, tears and money your parents have invested to help you get to this point in your lives.  Take the time to thank them.

I’m sure most of you will forget much of what has been spoken about today but I hope you will take away one point and that is to never give up no matter how tough the challenges are that may confront you.   Never give up on your dreams, your friends and family or your community and country.

As the great statesman Winston Churchill stated and my own high school teacher and mentor had published in her obituary as her favorite quote  “Success is not final, Failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”   

As we used to say in the Navy I wish you all fair winds and following seas.

Thank You and Congratulations