Graduation Talk 2015

graduationAs Superintendent, I had the opportunity to speak at graduation and share some thoughts with the Salisbury High School Class of 2015.

Board President Mr.  Giordano; Board members; Ms. Morningstar, Mr. Muschlitz; A stellar staff – teachers, administrators and support staff; Dedicated and supportive family and friends;  and to each of the graduates of the Salisbury High School Class of 2015 – Congratulations!

Here are some of your accomplishments:

156 graduates

1 National Merit Scholarship Commended Student

6 graduating from the Virtual Academy of Salisbury Township

19 graduating with a trade from LCTI

123 planning to pursue higher education

5 entering the armed services

16 entering the workforce

A Freddy Award nominee

Members of the Debate Team, winning league championship for the 7th year

1 state championship in track & field

1 senior who won 3 state medals in their cross country career @ SHS

Members of the twirling team who won the Atlantic Coast World Class Championship

All totaled, the Class of 2015 has been offered 2.7 million dollars in scholarship monies

Congratulations on this long-awaited day. You’ve been through 13 grades, at least 3-4 times as many teachers, teacher lectures, quizzes, projects, grades, a technology transformation, quite a bit of standardized testing, friendships come, friendships gone, school dances, school lunches, athletic events, theatre productions, music performances, talent shows, and the list could go on and on. I hope that you are leaving us today with a portfolio of memories and habits of mind that will prepare you to pursue your passions and take on the world in whatever path you choose – the world of work, military service or college. I join your teachers, administrators and school board members in knowing that you and your families feel you are well prepared for the myriad of successes and challenges that await you.

This evening I want to share with you a couple of thoughts I hope you’ll find worth pondering as you leave Salisbury (and for many of you LCTI as well) and begin to create your own future. But before I get to that, I wanted to share with you that we both celebrate a life milestone today – your graduation and the day I turn 50.

A lot has changed in the world over the past 50 years. (Your parents will relate to this.)  In 1965 Johnson was President, family income was$6,900, a postage stamp was 5 cents, the Vietnam War was dragging on, the Voting Rights Act was passed, Americans were obsessed with television including shows such as Get Smart, Hogans Heroes and I Dream of Jeannie. Digital technology and personal computing were only a dream we were exposed to in the futuristic utopia of the Jetsons (which actually started running in 1963).

Today, 50 years later, our country continues to experience much progress but also many challenges. (Challenges which we need you to help solve…but more on that shortly.) Barack Obama is the nation’s first African American President, family income is $54,000, a postage stamp is 49 cents, the fight against global terrorism has consumed much of our time, energy and financial resources. TV is no longer king – the Internet and technology have disrupted most industries including news, music, travel, books, commerce, libraries, television and video…and yes, even education. In 2015, with a computing device, each of us now has access to, for all intents and purposes, the sum of human knowledge on the other end of our devices, many as small as the phone in our pocket. With the skills to seek out and evaluate information and make connections with experts, we can learn virtually anything that we want to. There’s no way this could have happened 50 years ago.  It’s a very exciting time, this world you are about to enter. It’s full of possibilities for you to make it whatever you want to make it. It’s certainly a more exciting time than 1965. So I challenge you to think about this…How will you use the digital devices and connections available to you and what will you do with them to make your world, your community, your family (including your future children) better? In 2048 (or so) when you are 50, what will your life, your world, look like? And how will you have gotten there? I’d like to share two thoughts I think you might find useful as you create your future world: First,commit to the journey, not the destination. And second, learn from life’s disappointments and failures.

One never knows where the journey will lead.  Graduating from HS, I had no idea that I’d end up doing this work as an educator in a school district I had never even heard of. Having lost my father when I was in 9th grade, I turned to music in high school. It was most definitely my passion. Looking back, it was probably music, along with the support and encouragement of my family, that kept me on the right path. My ideal at the time was to become a high school band director and continue making music the rest of my life. Simple enough. Well, things didn’t exactly turn out that way. Somewhere along the journey, technology caught my interest and I started to merge the two – technology and music. Then this thing called the internet and the idea that I could learn anything caught hold. That eventually led me to where I am now, working with a terrific team of educators to provide you and all of our students with the best learning opportunities, including digital ones.

As you walk out of graduation this evening into your world of possibilities, commit to the journey, not the destination. Be of an open mind to modify your path along the way if your gut tells you it’s the right thing.  Let your heart and intuition be your guide. Like Steve Jobs once said, “They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

My second thought: disappointments and failures. Throughout life’s journey, I’m certain you’ll encounter success but I’m also certain you’ll experience failure – many times. Our society and even our schools tend to look down on failure. But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Yes, failure due to laziness or lack of work ethic is well deserved, but failure as a result of calculated risk taking isn’t so bad. In fact, it is through failure and the associated feedback that we often learn the most. Take for instance famed basketball player, Michael Jordan, inducted into the NBA hall of fame in 2009. He didn’t make the varsity team his sophomore year of high school. In his induction speech Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Your journey through life will be interrupted with disappointments and failures. It will be hard – the grade on that college exam, the team you got cut from, the job you didn’t get, the relationship that didn’t work out, the deal that fell through. Whatever it is, embrace it. And stay open to learning from your failures throughout life. Like Michael Jordan, use those inevitable disappointments as motivation to do better the next time and try again and again. It’s the only way you’ll grow and move on to even greater heights. It’s the only way you’ll succeed.

And we need you to do great things. The world needs you. The world may not realize that yet, but it does need you. Nobody here is invisible, unless you make yourself invisible. We need you. In 2015, we live in a world filled with many complex challenges – economic, political, climatological, social, ethical, medical and technological.  These challenges need solutions in order to make this a better world for ourselves and future generations, and there are many more new challenges on the horizon that will need solutions well into your lifetime. Remember, 2048. We need you to take your Salisbury education, your LCTI education, and keep learning in whatever way that looks like for you, and go forth to make a difference — following your passions, celebrating your successes and learning from your failures.

Congratulations Salisbury High School Class of 2015! On behalf of the board, administration and your teachers, I wish you all the best.


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