Achievement House Cyber Charter School Commencement Speech
June 18, 2013
Robert Fayfich, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, congratulated the 2013 graduates of Achievement House Cyber Charter School with this commencement speech on June 15, 2013.
Good morning students, faculty, administration, parents, and families of Achievement House Cyber Charter School. It is my pleasure and sincere honor to be with you this morning. But I must start my remarks with an apology. An apology to everyone, other than the 27 young men and women who are graduating today. They are the reason why all the rest of us are here, and my sole purpose today is to have a conversation with them. So, if all of the rest of you will please excuse us.
Ladies and gentlemen.
In 1965 I sat where you are sitting today. That was 48 years ago and, not only were you not yet born, neither were most of your parents. That officially makes me an old fella, and I’m ok with that.
My graduating class was a little bigger – 954 to be exact – but we had the same hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties as you do today. The only reason I am here this morning is to share some of my perceptions, borne from my experience during the last 48 years that may help you get through the next 48 years.
Let’s start our conversation with two assumptions…
First, that every one of you is blessed with both unique gifts and limitations that, if understood and accepted, can provide the foundation for a fulfilling and purposeful life.
Second, that each of you already knows what those gifts are, but may not yet fully understand them or have aligned them with your future. Why is self-understanding and alignment so important?
St. Augustine, who was even older me, stated this truth much more poetically long ago.
“Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. Where your heart is, there is your happiness.”
In more practical and contemporary terms, the key to a happy and fulfilling life is finding the overlap among what you love to do, what you’re good at doing, and what someone will pay you to do. Achieving that is a lifetime of work, but I think three things are essential:
- Listening to yourself and others whom you trust,
- Defining a life purpose that fits you, and
- just do it. or, if you prefer Larry the cable guy to Nike, just “git r done”. Listening to yourself is introspective. In quiet times, ask yourself a few simple, but important, questions.
What am I doing in my school, work, or at home when I am most and least happy? What am I doing when I lose track of time and, conversely, when something never seems to end? What do I most like, and most dislike, doing? What kind of situations do I like, and dislike being in? What kind of the people do I work best, and worst, with? and maybe most importantly, if I didn’t have to worry about making a living, or what other people thought of or expected from me, what would I most dream to do? Honest answers to each of these questions provide you with insight as to who you truly are and are the beginning of living your life from the inside out, rather than from the outside in.
But whomever you think you are, based solely on introspection, is incomplete at best and grossly inaccurate at worst. You are human and, as such, completely blind to some of your greatest weaknesses and your most valuable assets. You must add to your perception of yourself the perceptions of trusted teachers, friends, and family members to get a more true and holistic understanding of who you really are – with the knowledge that who you are changes over time and introspection and honest feedback are a constant. Once you feel comfortable with an understanding of who you are, at this point in time, you need to decide what you want to do with this unique and talented person. And that means looking closely at your gifts, obstacles, advantages, and limitations.
- Gifts are the skills and abilities that were given to you at birth.
- Obstacles are situations or roadblocks that may stand in the way of achieving your goal.
- Advantages are the opportunities that you create or are presented to you throughout your lifetime.
- And limitations are the practical realities that restrict what you can be.
Gifts differ from advantages in that you have the power to only enhance gifts but create advantages. Obstacles differ from limitations in that you can overcome obstacles but not limitations. But there is a danger in viewing situations as limitations when they are really only obstacles. Being female is less and less of an obstacle to being anything you want to be. But standing 5’2” and wanting to play center for the Miami heat is a real limitation.
Truly understand the difference and you’ll find that many things you initially think of as limitations are merely obstacles. Finally, git r done. George Bernard Shaw once said:
“The people who get on in this world are those who get up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they can’t find them, they make them.”
And research tells us that the people who have the most success in achieving their purpose in life share four characteristics.
- Passion – defined as an intense emotional excitement that goes beyond mere enthusiasm and allows nothing to stand in the way of achievement.
- Determination – establishing and sticking to priorities under challenging, discouraging, and unexpected challenges and circumstances.
- Talent – focusing on true strengths that come from discovering, understanding, and nurturing the true you.
- And faith – in yourself and your skills and the courage to sometimes step into the unknown.
Ladies and gentlemen, your life is ahead of you and you have control over what it will be. It won’t be easy. But the trip will be worth it. Let me end with a portion of a life philosophy titled desiderata which has been a guide and comfort for me since I first discovered it in college. The word “desiderata” is Latin for something that is needed or wanted and is the origin of the English word “desire”. Although the author of this statement is in dispute, its wisdom is not. It ends with these words.
“beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with god, whatever you conceive him to be and, whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”