Column: Converting obstacles into opportunitiesOur high school graduation is a time of great celebration in honor of the success we have all achieved thus far. Graduation is also a time in our lives when decisions must be made with the critical thinking we have developed along the way.
By: Elizabeth Wetering, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
Editor’s note: The following is the speech the author gave at the Worthington High School commencement ceremony May 22. Other speeches from the event will be published in future editions.
WORTINGTON — Fellow graduates, members of the Board of Education, Worthington High School administrators and faculty, ladies and gentlemen;
Our high school graduation is a time of great celebration in honor of the success we have all achieved thus far. Graduation is also a time in our lives when decisions must be made with the critical thinking we have developed along the way. We are all making different decisions about where to go, what to do and who to be. One thing we all have in common is that we must go through change. This change is definitely intimidating, but it can also be seen as a challenging opportunity.
As I was writing this speech, I found myself facing some difficulties. I had so many thoughts racing through my mind, dealing with what to say and how to relate to everyone in my audience, that I could not find a starting point for the speech itself. Each night I would try to start and then go to bed without touching on it. I was waiting for an epiphany. If you have ever had to write a final paper on books such as “A Separate Peace” or “The Scarlet Letter,” you know what I’m talking about.
I finally realized that it was not my lack of ideas that was hindering my speech, but my fear of making a mistake that held me back. The fear of doing it wrong was preventing me from doing it at all. You see, as long as I never started writing this speech, my possibilities would be endless and there would be nothing for anyone to criticize. But, this is not what opportunities like presenting graduation speeches are for. Their purpose is to test the bounds of our creativity, knowledge and courage, and to give us perspective on living life to its fullest extent. Most, if not all in this building have encountered numerous failures, and we all dislike the feeling. We have committed countless hours to practice for the purpose of avoiding failure. However, by taking hold of our opportunities in the classroom, in this gym and on stage, Worthington High has better prepared all of us for future challenges. If we let the fear of failure hold us down from exploring the unknown, we would survive, but would we be any better for it? We must expose ourselves to risk in order to experience all that life has to offer.
In an article I read, DeWitt Jones, a photographer for National Geographic, presented lessons he had learned while on the job. In one of these anecdotes, Jones came upon a field covered in dandelions, but skipped his chance for a photograph and decided to come back another day. When he came back, the dandelions had sadly turned to “puffballs” and his chance was ruined. Instead of leaving the field, Jones looked around for another shot, and was thrilled when he thought of taking a photo of a puffball silhouetted against the sun. It was a magnificent shot earning him much acclaim. The point of this lesson was not simply “seize the day” but to show that everyone can turn their problems into opportunities.
There is always more than one solution to the pressing needs of our lives, and we must not let fear of setback or failure prevent us from going forward. Selecting a college or career or even a lifestyle has been frightening for all of us. Of all the advice we have had from our parents, the one thing we have not ignored is that our future happiness relies upon these decisions. With the knowledge we have gained through the years, we have already ruled out most decisions between “right and wrong” and are left to decide between “better and best.”
Over the years we have changed so much, but some things have always stayed the same. How do those pants fit that you bought 2 years ago? Do you still eat with the same group of kids? Would those five items in your “paper bag speech” have changed if you presented it today? Going on into the future, change will happen that we had never even imagined was possible. However, there will be people and places that are always held close to our hearts. These things are what shapes us into the people we are today. Let us not forget. Class of 2009, I wish you good health and happiness in the future. I hope that at our 10 year reunion you will have attained some of your goals, but more importantly I wish for you the courage to embrace whatever life brings your way. It’s not important that you find the perfect field of dandelions, but what you will have done with the field you are given.