My graduation speech

Early this year, I was asked to speak for the 2011 high school graduates of my alma mater. I haven’t been home in a while but this time I had to be home so I jumped into the bus to catch the trip home to La Union. I was dead tired from work but I couldn’t sleep yet because I was empty-handed. I had no speech. After a 6hour bus ride, a sleepless night and a 2 hour self-pressure on the dining table, I had this piece:

President, principal, members of the faculty, proud parents, family, friends, and above all the graduating class of 2011, CONGRATULATIONS.

This is that day that you mark the end of one great effort and the commencement of another. You have accomplished on difficult assignments and passed tough exams. You worked hard. You’ve had hurdles but you did your fair share of growing up over the past four years.

Having gone this far, by now I hope you all had realized the significance of education. It is not a part nor a preparation for life, it is life itself because the kind of education that the populace gets, reflects the kind of decisions and value judgments that you shall make.

Your diplomas and distinctive awards will only take you as far in this life. It is the passion to succeed, the commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal and the urge to turn your dreams into reality that shall take you there.

You all have an equal opportunity in life, it is he who has recognized his passion that shall move forward because some men are successful because they are destined to be while some men become successful because they are determined to be.

So on this beautiful day, before these eager wild-eyed graduates let me share a few stories and the lessons life taught me when I had to face tough times, when I stumbled, when I had taken things for granted and when there had been a rare occasion that I’ve made a mistake.

Let me start with the lesson that I had to learn the hard way. In life, you will meet people who could not afford to see you overtake their lives and dreams that took them years to build yet you’re building it in no time. People who refuse to believe you are better than them.

I was at the momentum of my career, I was receiving praises from our head office and because of this, I was asked to do a task I completely don’t have any idea about. The best I could do was to consult the person one rank higher than I am, best believe that the person knows better. I entrusted my career to him, offered to do it for me while I sit back, watch and learn. True enough, I learned from it, the next thing I knew, my career was hanging by a thread. When the problem had erupted, he was the first person to point that finger on me. The momentum of my career had completely vanished.

I went through several critical meetings. It felt like my dreams have been slammed and crushed right in front of me. Terrible is an understatement. Those were months of sleepless nights. I am a little young to understand why I had to uproot my life to answer that call but I realized you have to give up something you cherish to be a part of achieving something better.

I stood firm because I knew I had to fight for the truth no matter how it pierces my life. Because you can never be wrong when you’re right and you can never be right when you’re wrong. After a while, I regained myself, I had moved forward.

My dear graduates, success will depend on what you do when you fail. Because you will fail along the way, we all do. If you don’t fail, you’re not dealing with hard enough problems. Thus, you are not learning.

Success is not just an equation of hard work and passion it involves constant failure because we are not judged by what we failed to do but what we’re about to do to come back from that failure. Being forced to come back from that failure is why I’m standing here today.

When I was your age, I wasn’t the staid and somber figure that stands before you now. I never took studies seriously. I didn’t graduate to be the top of the class. I was an average. Yes, I was a student council president, I had been a honed public speaker but mastering that craft was only the best I could do. My report cards would reflect a grade of line of 7 in subjects where numbers were present. I never failed but 7 was not something I was pleased to show the world. I didn’t realize its importance but as I moved towards the date of graduation my life had flashed right in front of me. I though living that way will only take me to another day looking at my life still the same barely moving. So I dared to take chances. I was brave enough that I took a degree full of mathematics. An area I was not good at way back in highschool. My mother was in doubt, i know it was nerve-racking for her because if I fail, the money spent for my education was not really that little, it was hard-earned. I was not born with a golden spoon on my mouth.

I had to be a continous work in progress. I had to do the impossible. I also had to spend more time in the library than I did at home. I studied hard enough to work my way up to consistently make my name appear on the dean’s list. Who would have thought I’d make it.

Lesson learned: Don’t be an average. You have full control of your life. It does not necessarily mean that if you’re today’s nobody, you still are by tomorrow. It is never too late to dare to make a difference in your life. I used to think “I’m not ready yet” “I don’t know enough” but if I waited until I was ready to make that perfect keynote and time, I’d still be waiting.

Dear graduates, promise me that the next time we cross our paths some of you will be prime movers of this economy, some of you will be leaders of this nation and some of you will be successful men building iconic brands. Set aside marriage and having kids you will have plenty time for that but you don’t have enough time to fulfill your dreams. Chase them while you’re young.

There is no secret to success. It has always been in the open it is up for grabs. You will make it. be deaf to those who tell you you can’t.

You are leaving this campus and all the opportunities to learn and grow that it offers. You have prepared well here in this institution.

I thank you, I congratulate you, I wish you success and Godspeed. That in all things, God may be glorified.

And I never knew it would make such an impact to the graduates and to the parents. As I walk back into the crowd, parents would approach and thank me while some cried while I shared the sentiments of my life that I didn’t used to be that firm figure that stood and spoke in front of them. It was a moment of my life where the word overwhelmed would be an understatement.


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