Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am very appreciative for the invitation. I am honored to be here but a bit apprehensive about speaking.
You see every time I am asked to speak to teenagers I think about my years as a teen. And I think about the prophetic words Abraham Lincoln once expressed in a famous speech in Gettysburg at a critical moment in the life of this nation. He said, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here”. In other words, he believed that the chances that people would remember what he said were very low.
Why do I believe that President Lincoln’s words apply in this instance? I will be honest with you. When I was your age I was a very attentive student. Yet, I cannot remember a single word any speaker said at the extracurricular events that I attended when I was in middle school or high school.
I do remember attending these kinds of events. And not surprisingly, the event that stands out in my mind is when a celebrity visited the school and spoke. She was an actress named Jayne Kennedy. At the time, Kennedy was a co-host of the most popular Sunday Football pregame show on national television. She was a very attractive woman, comparable to Tyra Banks or Beyonce Knowles. That may be the reason I remember.
I also remember that a politician accompanied her.
As a shy and awkward kid, I was very impressed. It is plausible that the idea that politics would also provide me the opportunity to hang around beautiful people and make me popular with the ladies formed at that very moment. And that may be the reason I decided to go to college and study politics.
The point is, I cannot recall what she said, but the event had an impact on me. It was a meaningful moment in my life.
The fact is, I am no celebrity and certainly no Lincoln. So the chances are greater in this instance that you will NOT remember what I say. Still, just because I am not famous, beautiful or profound does not mean that you should not be attentive.
You should take this event very seriously whether you heed my words or not because it is done with great intent.
Organizers, teachers, volunteers, and sponsors invest a lot of time and resources to these kinds of efforts with the understanding that the most important thing they can do in life is to contribute to the building of a good and just city. And they are committed to fulfilling that mission by providing meaningful educational activities that may nurture your intellectual, spiritual and emotional development. In short, these special events are conducted for your benefit.
These sorts of events should also be taken seriously because the experiences provide you an opportunity to test yourself, gain valuable life lessons, and maybe even discover something that you did not know about yourself. Placing you in public and professional setting outside your home and school provide you the opportunity to exercise self-discipline and individual responsibility. And the decisions you make in regards to how you comport yourself will tell your teachers and peers much about what kind of person you choose to be, or want to be.
Having been your age, I know that every time I went on a field trip, I cherished the fact that it took me out of the classroom.
Having been where you are, I am here to tell you that I will understand if you do not remember anything I say. I know that sometimes speeches from adults like me are tolerated because it ensures that the out-of-class excursion will last long enough that you will not have to go back to school and do any work.
Things have changed since I was in school. But some things remain the same.
Still, even if my words are forgettable, I am hopeful that you will view these types of events as a learning experience and not just a chance to waste time. I am hopeful that you will realize that lessons can be learned, at these events, with your ears and not just your eyes. And that you take advantage of all the opportunities the events afford.
I am also hopeful that you will realize that your aspirations for yourself and your community are tied to your willingness to use every experience that you have in your life to mature and grow as an individual.
Even if you do not remember a single word I say, I am hopeful that these extracurricular events will provide insight into the mindset that may prevail within you. And that you realize that the attitude you have while confronting every challenge in your life will determine whether you succeed or fail; more importantly, whether you fully actualize your God-given potential.