Since my days of high school, it was always an aspiration of mine to deliver a speech at at least one of my graduations. When my speech wasn't chosen to be read at the end of high school, I set my sights on college, knowing my writing skills would develop enough to make what I had to say worthy of a podium. Soon, I joined Student Government, and learned that this dream was on path to be achieved. However, many of you know that this was derailed over time, and I would come to find myself no longer a student leader, or even a student. So naturally, watching my peers and colleagues deliver addresses I wish I could have is a pang I still feel today, particularly as commencements go by in these recent weeks.
While I am disqualified from delivering one on a stage in front of cap-and-gowned colleagues, I am taking it upon myself to deliver a graduation speech via social media, with the hope that at least one of the people that reads this may find encouragement from it, so without further ado:
Peers, friends, and family,
First of all, congratulations on making it to today. No matter how small or large today this is in your mind and heart, it is unequivocal that you making it here today is a testament to your own perseverance and capability. For that, you all owe yourselves a pat on the back. Next, I'd like to take the time to distinguish a point that I have watched myself and others get tangled up in over the years. I emphasize my own confusion with the topic to follow, as making clarity of it is not an endeavor that is quite fully conquered, especially for myself.
The topic I want to share with you pertains to placing proper credit in our achievements. More importantly, when and how we distinguish thanking others, and thanking ourselves.
Today is a perfect example. Today is a milestone that cannot have occurred without your determination and effort. But I believe it is concurrently self-evident that we all have several people we want to thank for helping us get here today, be it the people who gave birth to us, or our friends. Maybe it's one person, maybe it's one hundred people that you owe thanks to. But we all have at least one person we owe thanks to.
That emphasis of this, though, is not that we owe thanks to others, even though we do. It is also certainly not to say that we would not be anywhere without everyone else, because that is also not true. Rather, the point to be made in what I bestow upon you today is that no matter how many people in this world help us, your achievement and progress still rests on your own shoulders.
You can be given money, books, popularity - you name it! But without your own desire to continue and determination to reach a next milestone, all of it would be wasted. You may have people in your life that will try to minimize your achievements by citing their participation in getting you to them. I say to you today, let no man's help take from you the spirit of perseverance. Let no person rob you of your determination through accusation or generosity.
In couching the words I have to offer you, I'd like to also say that help and generosity is not to be taken lightly. Some of you have lived a life that has met you with more helping hands than others. No two people walk the same path in reaching their destination, even when the destination is identical. But you are all sitting here today because you all wanted to reach this point, and made the decision that you were going to make it here. So you did.
When I was fifteen years old, my body had built a tolerance to the medication that was keeping Crohn's disease from laying me to rest, rendering my medicine useless. With my insurance coverage refusing to help pay for the medicine I needed, I was then left for roughly three months untreated; I was left to waste away. Obviously that is not how this story ends, because I am standing here today. I had helping hands. I had friends and family on that journey, and a wonderful medical staff. But I can look each one of you in the eyes today to tell you that if I did not have the personal will to continue, that this story would have ended two sentences ago. I have several people to thank for helping me through that time, but I will never let a single soul tell me that I did not put myself here today. Because I did.
Keep moving forward, and never feel diminished at seeking needed help. Never think less of yourself because you had a helping hand. Settle your debts and give thanks where deserved. But never let a 'please' or 'thank you' be a parameter when setting goals. In the words of my personal hero, Muhammad Ali: "Impossible is nothing."
I'm proud of you for making it here today, and know with steadfast confidence that each and every one of you sitting here today will rise tomorrow and already be in the works of their next milsetone. Congratilations, and thank you for giving me the honor of knowing each and every one of you.