Listen Up, 2016!
• Good morning...
• My name is Jimmy Conley, and I am the principal at Unionville High School, I want to warmly welcome,
• The Members of the School Board
• District administrators, and Superintendent John Sanville
• The members of the Unionville High School staff
• Parents, Family Members, Friends, everyone out there watching today’s
Live Stream on YouTube
• And to today’s GUESTS OF HONOR...THE MEMBERS OF THE CLASS OF 2016
• Thank you for coming to the 93rd Commencement Ceremony of Unionville High School!
• It is my privilege to offer greetings to everyone gathered here today to honor our graduating seniors!
• Well, members of the Class of 2016 here we are together at last. After 4 years at Unionville High School, the crowning achievement of your academic careers, and there you sit draped in a fine blue gown, wearing a funny looking, uncomfortable hat... listening.
• Throughout this joyous day you will hear many things, on this, your graduation day. From speeches filled with fond remembrances, to myriad quotations from poet laureates and novelists long-forgotten, and yes, even a corny joke or two. However, most importantly, you will hear encouragement from peers, family members, and mentors that makes a positive impact on your future.
• The often timely, yet sometimes overwhelming advice and admonishments about the big, bad world that you may hear today could seem downright scary. Now, I, too, will do my part to warn you that the words showering down upon you from all directions would give the appearance that the big, bad world is ready to pounce on you the minute that you exit the doors of the Bob Carpenter Center today.
• And just as the summer superhero blockbusters are about to be released to a theater near you, there you will stand donning your blue gown (of armor), with your diploma in one-hand and your funny looking hat in the other. Kind of like a nerdier version of Captain America meets Iron-Man. However, just as the DC Comics and Marvel Superheroes of cinema have a Super-Power, what is yours? Do you have one?
• Yet, in a matter of moments, I will soon certify that you are prepared to fight this battle today, on your own. Isn’t this crazy? How can we possibly do this to you, without you realizing your secret super power?
• Class of 2016, as you maneuver through the obstacles and triumphs that life throws your way, you ARE fully equipped to face this world -- if you remember one piece of advice that will be your secret weapon and Super Power and that is TO LISTEN! Pretty simple, right? Most superpowers usually are.
• My challenge to you, Members of the Class of 2016 is to listen. Listen with a discernible ear, and with an ear that yearns for more! Listen with an ear that seeks understanding and grasps all of the pearls of wisdom thrust upon you. Listen with an ear that seeks truth and delves into the heart of the matter so that you can better understand; Listen with the future in mind, the future of my generation and that of my children’s generation...just listen!
• Listening has become a forgotten art in our world. A skill that many tout as a crucial skill for success is so rarely celebrated. You never hear people walk out of a meeting and say, “My goodness Harry is an amazing listener. He just sat there the whole time and didn’t say a word! Wow!” or would they utter these words “You know, Grace never stops listening, I mean she just goes on and on listening! So impressive! She’s really going places!”
• Honestly, those individuals who listen quietly are sometimes labeled as uninvolved unprepared, or unmotivated...not a “Go-Getter.” Our world celebrates how quickly someone’s Tweets, posts, or blogs can land in the cyberworld about an event or conversation, without taking the time to listen. Our culture becomes more obsessed with a reality star’s one-way Twitter rant, than we are about the significance of a two-sided, educated conversation grounded in discourse, respect, and truth.
• I am sure that someone is texting a friend right now in the audience, or commenting on someone’s Instagram post during this very speech about listening to others!
• Yet we should not soon forget what Winston Churchill pointed out to us: "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Over the next four years, I challenge you to listen to your professors, coaches, co-ops, supervisors, drill instructors, bosses and, especially, your parents. Engage in rich conversations where you take the lead to listen. Over the next four years listen to the mentors in your area of study so that, one day, you will be the best in the field of medicine, law, education, the military, the ministry, or business.
• I repeat, your most valuable resource will ALWAYS be your parents, just because you are headed off into the world, NEVER stop listening to them.
• Be open to learning new things from listening to those who surround you.
• As a young teacher here at Unionville High School, I worked with many excellent teachers, many of whom are here among us today. I had no choice but to listen to my veteran colleagues, because I realized that I had a great deal to learn from them. While I had much to share, (or so I thought) I gained more from listening to their words of wisdom about the art and craft of teaching. I wanted in the worst way to prove my mettle to them so that I could be as good at teaching as they were.
• Their wisdom about how to bring literature to life each day, and how they were able to train their students to write as if the words danced across the page was more meaningful to me than any class that I had taken or book that I had studied. Lastly, and most importantly, I listened to my students, realizing during all of my years in the classroom that I gained so much more from listening to them than I am sure they learned from my lectures on Emerson, Poe, Whitman, or Shakespeare.
• Unfortunately, in our world you will also hear things that are sad, hateful, and hurtful; not everything you hear will be constructive. Yet, this is where you really need to be a superhero. Be brave and stand up for those people for whom no one will listen; Listen to those who have no voice, or whose voice has been stifled by others. Defend someone’s voice to speak so that others may listen and learn from them.
• So now Class of 2016, our newly branded Superheroes, you are ready and armed with your Superhero Secret weapon. Be sure to listen to those around you, and lend your ear for good, not evil; then share your gifts with the world.