[Posted June 15, 2017] Uni principal Eric Davidson delivered two addresses to the Class of 2017, one for the seniors only and public remarks at the Commencement Ceremonies in Kampmann Stadium on June 9. He was kind enough to share both with us:
- To the graduating seniors:
“Good afternoon. To the parents of our graduating seniors, congratulations for surviving the uncertainties, anxieties, and chaos of being the parent of a teenager. To the families of the class of 2017, I hope you are as proud of the accomplishments to come as you are of the achievements of today. To the friends of this class, I hope you remain steadfast in your friendship and are reminded each and every day of the best qualities of these fine folk. To the class of 2017, I hope you leave here having learned what it is to be kind, generous, and caring adults who are destined to be the greatest of all generations knowing that anything less may not be enough. We truly count on you to be the solvers of great equations that have no limits nor bounds; to be inspired by the extraordinary qualities of being human; to be fearless in the face of complexity and to be resolved to persevere to a solution that may save our Mother Earth from the short-sighted decisions of our politicians.
“Remember that when you walk down the street, no one knows your GPA or your SAT score. They don’t know how many hours of community service you have served. People can’t tell what your accomplishments are. They can’t tell if you graduated from high school or even what high school you attended. People only know what they see. They can see your smile. They can see your kindness towards a stranger. They can see the way you dress or how wear your hair. You communicate with actions more than words, so take actions that make a positive statement about who you are and the way you are.
“I graduated from a high school not far from here. I got older, married, and started my own family. My kids ended up attending the same high school. I became the Assistant Principal at the high school. One day I received a call from a community member. She shared this story with me:
“‘I take walks every day. I time my walks so I’m not on the street when the high school lets out because the students make me nervous. They’re loud and walk in big groups. They seem to take over the sidewalk leaving little room for anyone else. Well, yesterday when I was walking, I saw a large group of students walking towards me. School must have let out earlier than usual. I didn’t know what to do, so I froze in the middle of the sidewalk. One of the students approached me and told the other kids to make way. She took hold of my arm and helped me through the crowd. She asked me how I was doing and commented on what a great day it was for a walk. We finally got through the crowd of kids who smiled at me and made me feel at ease. I thanked the young lady who escorted me. She said, ‘You’re welcome.’ Then she turned and walked away to catch up to her friends.’
“The community member who called was my mother. To this day, she always tells me that story as if it was the most important event in her life. You can make that same impact on the life of a total stranger. You just have to give yourself the chance.
“Give yourself a chance to be better. Give yourself a chance to lend a hand, help someone in need, give something of yourself that another might need more. Do what is right rather than what is popular.
“Work hard at doing better. It is our nature to find the easy way. We are creative and innovative. But it is important to work hard using our creativity and innovativeness. Taking the easy way solely to minimize effort is a path with few benefits. I was a line cook and became the head chef. I pumped gas and became a mechanic. I was a sales associate and became a department manager. I was a bouncer and became a general manager. I was a teacher and became a principal. I worked hard at doing better. That’s my story, what will yours be?
“Finally, find your passion. Working for money is a job. Working for salary is a career. Working for the work is passion. I have found passion in this place because the work includes being with you. Being with you feeds my hungry heart. Being with you satiates my soul. Being with you gives me purpose to do this work. My hope for all of you is to work hard, do better and find your passion.
“There are an infinite number of things that can happen between now and the known end of your life’s journey. Each minute of every day gives you a chance to decide. So, be wise, choose well, and unto yourself be true.”
- To those gathered for Commencement:
“Welcome University High School family members. Your family is our family. Our family stands together. We stand for tolerance, acceptance, and respect. We respect our brothers and sisters. We honor our parents and kin. We celebrate our differences and, most importantly, we trust the commitments we make to each other.
“Our Declaration of Independence has endowed us with unalienable rights. Included are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our ancestors give us life, our rule of law gives us liberty but our happiness is limited only by our imagination, creativity, and the choices we make.
“We have a chance to explore and discover. Don’t settle for the first shiny thing you find. It is always amazing and inspiring. But it is the first. What else may come our way? Maybe the wiser path makes us look outside our comfort zone. Perhaps you go away to school or transfer from a community college. We expand our minds by experiencing things that make us feel unsure, insecure, and awkward, only to be liberated. Imagination is so important.
“John Lennon: ‘Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.’
“Albert Einstein: ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’
“Mark Twain: ‘You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’
“Walt Disney: ‘When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.’
“Courage keeps us on our path. Without courage, we defer responsibility to others. Courage is not the same as fear. Courage is taking a step towards fear. Courage isn’t a fight. Courage is moving forward even when confronted with obstacles and barriers.
“Winston Churchill: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’
“e. e. cummings: ‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.’
“Plato: ‘Courage is knowing what not to fear.’
“This last quote is very important because we are more and more told what and who to fear and why. That takes me back to the beginning of this talk. Our differences make us better. When I look at all of you, I know that I am loved as much as I love. That I am cared for as much as I care for this mighty institution. We are all parts of this whole and it will take our imagination and courage to fight the forces that are driven to divide us, make us separate and unequal, challenge our better sense of who we are as people and humans, and limit our collective liberty and our happiness.
“Today we celebrate and I implore you to continue celebrating the diversity of us, the strength of our unity, and the remarkable imagination and courage each of us has because we are home here with our family.”