12 June 2011

Commencement Speech

Continuing with the 1980's theme of the past few days, I have a friend from middle school who is a high school principal now. She appears to be the principal we all wished for.  Whit lost her husband in a car accident last November and lost her mom to cancer a few years ago.  It seems like the hits just keep coming to her and yet she is steadfastly positive.

Every year she posts her commencement speech.  Below is this years.  Incredible.

Graduation Speech 2011
I had the great pleasure of welcoming high school students from our league to Chimacum last month for the end of year Interhigh program. What a delight to have young people from throughout the Nisqually region come together as leaders. Truly inspirational. On that day, I asked them a question, this question, upon which I now ask you to reflect: when you think of a ROCK what comes to mind? Several attributes came out of that discussion: hard, solid, dependable, something on which to stand, a point of reference, an island, music….

This year, I think we’ve all had to think about things differently. I know I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion, “Who, or what is my rock? On what can I depend?” There is not always an easy answer to that question when we experience a year like this one, but I also know that we grow the most during times of turmoil. So Class of 2011, friends and family, faculty, I want to share a little of my reflection on my ROCK at this point in time.

R is for RESILIENCE. We never know what life is going to bring our way.
  • How do we celebrate when times are good?
  • How do we recover when they are hard?
  • How do we ask for and accept a helping hand?
  • How do we say we are sorry and let others know we are ready to move on?
Resilience is all about pulling from a place of inner strength to struggle through tough times. Life isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s the hard stuff that really lets us know what is important and what we can do.

O is for OPTIMISM.
  • One wish I have for all of us here today is to spend more time focusing on the positive.
  • Emphasize what you have
  • Look for what’s working.
  • See what is right.
  • Count your friends.
  • When you catch yourself complaining about something or someone, check yourself and ask yourself what it will take to return to the positive.


A skill I have consistently tried to develop this year is checking my own emotions when something happens that may rub me the wrong way. I’ve been working – somewhat, but not entirely successfully – at being curious. So I might ask myself:
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What do I need to know to better understand this situation?
  • Is there something happening here that I need to know more about? 
  • What do I need to do to move past this situation?

K is for KINDNESS.

Ever since the Rachel’s Challenge program came to Chimacum, I have worked to keep the message alive, helped kids at Chimacum Choice through the Friends of Rachel Club spread random acts of kindness to others. Yet, I know I have not always been kind. It’s something I continually have to work on. To do that, I must
  • Think of others before myself
  • Apologize when I hurt someone, even if it was unintentional
  • Be sensitive to others’ feelings
  • Seek out people who need a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on
  • Smile more
And that’s how I’ve found my ROCK this year, when it seemed every time I turned around, something tragic was happening. I reminded myself, I live in a community filled with ROCKs: Resilience, Optimism, Curiosity, Kindness. If we all keep coming back to these, we will live a happy and full life.

In closing, I would like to share lessons and wishes learned from people at the ends of their lives, in the hopes all of us can take these to heart here at what is the beginning of the rest of ours:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.  
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

Class of 2011, live well, laugh often, and may love fill your life. Congratulations.

Dr. Whitney Meissner, Chimacum High School, Washington

1 comment:

Wendy B. said...

Love, Love, LOVE this!!!! What an awesome message! Thanks for sharing...I may have to re-post on my FB :o)