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At graduations across the US, year in and year, out speakers stand in front of the graduating students with one primary responsibility. That responsibility is to try to impart some words of wisdom upon the graduates that can guide them in the next phase of their lives. We do this from the perspective of life lessons learned and the old adage of been there… done that…

The speaker also does this because people in society wonder if today’s graduates can take care of us in the future and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” after graduating from high school.

So as I began to think about what you need to know about what the future has to offer and what words of wisdom I could provide you to help you after graduation,  I realized it’s not what I can tell you right now that will help you after graduation. It’s what you taught us this year that tells me that you are ready for life outside of Spotswood High School.

This year you taught us 3 lessons.

The first is that HARD WORK MATTERS. On the grid-iron, soccer field, tennis courts, hardwood, wrestling mat, softball and baseball diamonds, and track you worked as a team. Some records were broken and some championships were won but more importantly your hard work and effort made you and your team the best possible.

This hard work went beyond athletics. Your hard work was evident in the fall play, spring musical, chorus and band concerts, poetry and band competitions. Again, competitions were won, trophies issued but your hard work made yourself and your peers the best possible.

Your hard work also showed in the classroom. First, you are all here today which means you have passed your classes to graduate. But you also demonstrated that your hard work paid off based on the 2 and 4 year colleges you are going to and the massive amounts of scholarships you accumulated this spring.

In all of these areas you showed us this year that HARD WORK MATTERS.

The second thing you taught us is a lesson that we hoped you did not have to teach us. But in the face of tragedy you taught us CARING AND COMPASSION. You showed this to families, friends, each other and the entire school community. You showed us how to come together in a tough situation and what it means to truly be a Spotswood Charger. Do not forget how important it is to be caring and compassionate in the best and toughest of times.

Finally, you taught us that we should not forget to HAVE FUN. From showing school spirit throughout the year, to cheering on your classmates in competitions and games, to creating the look and feel of New York City during spirit week, to demonstrating how sticky notes could be used to create a giant 2014, to filling a car full of balloons. Your genuine sense of fun showed us that you understood how to work hard and play hard. Do not lose your ability to enjoy the moment.

If you are going to be successful in life you need to know that hard work matters, you need to be caring and compassionate, and you need to take time to have fun. I can not provide you better examples of these three vital lessons than the examples you have provided us this school year.

So when society wonders if today’s graduates can take care of us and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” I can say Spotswood High School’s Class of 2014 absolutely knows what it takes because they have showed us all year what hard work, caring, compassion, and fun can do for them individually, as a class and for us!

Continue to work hard, be caring and compassionate, and have some fun in all that life has to offer. Congratulations class of 2014.

NOTE: This entry is the 2nd in an annual tradition of posting the graduating speech I give to the seniors. I encourage other educators to share their speeches as a way to acknowledge the efforts and success of our students, hard work of our teachers, staff and administrators, and hopefully inspire people to action.