Thursday, June 05, 2008

White Ducks: Jim's Senior Speech

I've had a week off so I could attend my son's graduation from Elkhart Memorial High School. He was chosen to give the senior speech at commencement, so I'm including exerpts from it. I've taken out some of the local and school-specific comments, but gist of the speech is here. A couple of things: Memorial's team is the Crimson Chargers. And Philoctetes was one of the Greeks who sacked Troy; specifically, he slew Paris, the guy who carried off Helen and started the whole sorry business. Photo uploaded from He did a wonderful job with the speech, in spite of some rather bad acoustics. Here it is:

The thing is that even though I've lived here all my life, a whole 18 years, I have never seen a white duck.Yes, I have been to zoos, public parks--even Wisconsin--and I have yet to see one single colorless snow glazed feather. That bugs me. I've heard people whine about the failings of their life, never doing this or that, never having kissed her, found time for him, gotten that job, gone bungee jumping, and through all their griping I can't help but think that I haven't even seen a white duck. I think I'm down on points here. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." It turns out that's our commencement topic by the way. And you're probably wondering what that quote has to do at all with ducks. White. Fluffy. Ducks. My Dream is to see this duck. It may be odd, it may be silly, but I believe in this dream. And I really want to see that duck! Obviously, and for the reassurance of my parents, since they're probably crossing their fingers up there about now, I have more life goals then that! I have college in a few months--hopefully I'll pull out a degree in something palpable, and later on a career and family. Those are pretty broad dreams, nearly universal, and something I probably share with most of you here graduating today.

What makes wanting to see that little duck special is the infinitesimal smallness of it. It's like the first stepping stone in a pond, and I intend to dream my way across one stone at a time. I believe in this dream...

Okay, Do you remember when you were five, and you wanted to be not a firefighter, a cosmetologist, a lawyer, or a doctor, but a Jedi? (beat)This seemed to me the perfect career choice for me, a way to browbeat my way to the future and a perfectly reasonable career choice to expend my life on.I didn't limit myself to that career choice though, I also considered being a cowboy, pirate, free range chicken, and Godzilla. However, I have yet to achieve any of these lofty childhood goals. These wishes consumed me, burning my insides like a ghostflame, and brought forth the sustenance for my daily trials...

But now that we can separate fact from fiction, our dreams are not so far-fetched, and we can attain them if we can dig up that cinder we have inside us, believe in it, and nurse it into a fire. Not so we can spit-roast that white duck when I find it, but to give ourselves those devastating dreams powerful enough to burn harder then mere crimson whisps, and charge forward to light the lives ahead of us. These dreams can give us the future sight, to aspire to the best in everything we do. Though we can all still feel like Jedi when we go through those automatic doors at Kroger's. We are consigned to dream the best we can.

And we have--in four years we've had so many dreams, and we've worked for them. In four years we've had a plethora of sports teams go to State, and Steve Stahl conquered that [state wrestling] title like Philoctetes over Troy. We've had some of the best artists in the country.

We've dreamed big. And we've dreamed small.
We've dreamed of not having those silly tardy lockouts.
We've dreamed of chasing those geese off the lawn.
We've dreamed of long nights out, and we've dreamed of senioritis.

We've lived life to the fullest, just like every pop song has ever told us to. And now high school is done. But there are so many more dreams we have to live, so let's keep sleeping in, so years from now we can say we lived in our dreams. So don't forget that burning wish, that yearning wish. It is no death wish, no out of scale dream; it is merely an ember that if we foster, can light a fire for the rest of our lives.

Jim will be going to Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana this fall. He's majoring in English/Creative Writing.


Charles Gramlich said...

That's a pretty nice talk. Certainly an original approach.

Sustenance Scout said...

Jim looks like he was right at home at that podium, Steve! I'm not surprised he was chosen to give the commencement speech. Love his reference to how dreams for the future keep us compelled to do everyday things well. Somehow I'm not suprised he's such an insightful guy, considering his family background. Kudos to all of you! K.

Catherine said...

Absolutely wonderful start to his career I would say! Congrats on getting him through high school - I know it is a tough job!

steve said...

Charles, Karen--many thanks.

Catherine--Many thanks as well. I'm glad you visited. I just read your post on first loves, which I'll have to reread. It ties in very much with my WIP.

Emperor Ropi said...

Congratulations to him! Very original speech.

Lisa said...

You and Kathleen must be very proud. He sounds like an incredibly grounded, intelligent and creative soul -- I wonder where those traits came from? :)

steve said...

Ropi--Thank you And congratulations on your recent academic achievments.

Lisa--Thank you. Kathleen and I encouraged all of our children to be creative. All three have been creative in their own unique ways.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

My daughter "Calamity Jane" is five and she wants to be a pirate singing cowgirl.

Jim sounds like a chip off the old block-- you are doing a great job there! I love reading about other parents' successes and how they have instilled great values in their children. I have been worn out lately by my 12 & under crown and this reminds me how much worth it it is!

Your vine bears fine fruit!

Peter said...

Jim seems to get across all of the necessary graduation bromides with real humor. I would love to have him speak at our graduation next week.

Free-range chicken?

You may remember how I feel about someone's wanting to make something like Jedi Knighthood a career choice. My kind of guy!

steve said...

Tea, Peter--Many thanks