Class of 2020,
You’ve made it once more to the end of a year
Only this one is different, so lend me your ear.
Teaching science, I don’t often give life advice
But this is my chance, and I’ll keep it concise.
You’ve made it through quarks and Einstein’s Equation
Through parsecs and coulombs, and on this occasion,
I just want to notice the work that you’ve done.
I hope it sparked interest and I hope it was fun.
But that’s not really the theme of this talk here today
In our last class together before you all go away
There’s a lot that has happened to impact your year
And many future ripples will be traced right back here
So, your high school career ended different than many
But that shouldn’t detract from the class of 2020
People have loved using the word “unprecedented”
To describe your experience, but I think that it’s presented
A short-sighted look at what makes you all grand
Because this won’t be the last thing that you take on unplanned
Your futures ahead will be filled up with stories
Of all your successes, and triumphs, and glories
But the memories that stick and stand out when they’ve ended
Are the moments when things didn’t go as intended
Someday you’ll look back from a new point of view
And appreciate the things that became clearer to you
In this time with ourselves. At home. Disconnected.
We learned to recognize things we should have always respected
School isn’t just class, and school isn’t the grade
It’s about branching out and connections you’ve made
Don’t let “unprecedented” outshine your feat
Your journey continues, it is yours to complete
Thirteen years ago, I sat where you sit,
And from that time since, I’ve learned some things to transmit
Looking back, it’s okay if high school wasn’t the best
A transition is coming, it’s time to start a new quest.
The time up ahead will look different, no doubt
The scenery will change but you’ll still need a route
So as you advance to your college of choice
Put yourself out there and search for your voice
The time for decisions won’t soon be complete
But you can start fresh. You can restart your beat.
It’s also okay if you loved these four years
You can still “close the yearbook” without too many tears
And it’s ok to look back, with love and affection
At the times that you’ve shared: your memory collection
Someday, these years will be a blip on a map
From your first day as freshmen to your funny, square cap
But especially right now, this journey means more-y
Four years to you is one-fifth of your story.
So don’t take for granted your friends on this ride
People change people. You’re better inside.
It’s okay to have passion. It’s okay to succeed.
Take note of these things that you long for and need
Someone once told me to focus on gaps
To keep putting time in so I could clean up the scraps
But I’ve started to see that this isn’t all true
It’s your strengths that need practice, they’re the things that you’ll do
Why stop at good when you can work to be great
Put your weakness aside, you should load up your plate
With the things that are natural, the things that you love
The things that have always seemed to fit like a glove.
If you don’t know where to start, ask your family and friends
They’ll help you see strengths in a completely new lens
It’s okay to quit, I know this doesn’t sound right
It doesn’t seem that inspiring, not too happy or bright
But sometimes, just sometimes, quitting is good
If there’s something else out there that you don’t do but should
Thirteen years ago this would not have made sense
I never admitted when it got too intense,
Or boring, or painful, or too far in to change
But that prevented me from new things from looking down range
The hardest thing that I did, is the reason that I’m here
It’s when I chose to quit my job as a well paid engineer.
At the time I wasn’t sure, I think it would have happened sometime
But if I didn’t change my path, then you wouldn’t have read this dumb rhyme
It’s not too late to change, no one knows for sure…
But if you aren’t afraid to jump, you might be better than you were.
None of these, by the way, are things I thought of by myself
They all came from others and some books off my shelf
You are only as smart as the company you keep
So surround yourselves wisely; keep that learning curve steep
Somebody once asked me “What have you made?”
“What have you done to be showcased, displayed?”
To be honest, at the time, my answer wasn’t great
I know what I’d say now, but my response is years too late.
So I ask the same of you, so that you can all reflect,
Because, “What have you made?” doesn’t have to be an object
It could take the form of friendship that you’ve fostered and sustained
Or maybe its a change that you have worked on and attained
Right now, “What WILL you MAKE?” motivates me more than ever
It gives life to daily chores and has led to new endeavors
And now that I am a father, with this role to live up to
I hope my mini-me’s grow up as wonderful as you.
And I hope when someone asks you what you’ll “make” and what you’ve “made”,
You can proudly reflect back upon the deck of cards you’ve played.
It’s okay to admit when the world just isn’t fair
But it’s hard for us to do when the guilt is ours to share
Our experience is shaped by where we’re from and how we look
And sometimes our success was more than actions that we took
When in this place of privilege, we must learn and we must listen
We must recognize success is more than effort and ambition
Be aware of the injustice and of people who’ve been slighted
Find the things that you can do. There are wrongs that must be righted
You are all special, you have all been quite blessed.
To have what you have so I have one more request
Whatever you do and wherever you go,
Pay attention to moments that force you to grow.
It’s the times when we’re stretched that push us beyond
When you face these tough times, how will you respond?
It is my hope that you’ll do what you can
To step up and proudly stake your flag in the sand.
The world will be yours take care and take heed
Set the example and we’ll follow your lead.
Father, Physics Teacher, Knowles Fellow, Friend, Techie, and Musician