Grow an appetite for life's bounty

Glendale News Press

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I had the honor of giving the keynote speech at Hoover High's Baccalaureate last Sunday, and it was quite an emotional experience for me. I said goodbye to yet another group of seniors, and I was also saying goodbye to a profession that has treated me well for nearly four decades.

Here's what I said to the kids, with a few spare afterthoughts in the margins.

Thanks to St. Marks Episcopal for providing this beautiful setting, as it has for the last 20 years of graduating seniors throughout our community.

(Thanks to Virginia Young, who volunteers her time to her beloved church and for making this happen for thousands of kids over the years. She is one of those unsung heroes in our community who does great things with no thought of reward or recognition.)

I was asked to say a few words today, and I thank you for that honor.

So, to the class of 2010, my final farewell.

Raise your hands (sorry about that — can't shake the teacher in me) if you have heard any of the following cliches:

"It seems like only yesterday."

"Where did the years go?" (You'll all say variations of these too when you attend your 30th reunions and thereafter, for the rest of your lives.)

"You've only just begun."

"The future is yours."

"Your potential is unlimited." (Those are for you, my children, and a rich harvest of others that we might mention here that would have you nodding in agreement with you minds a thousand miles away.)

It just doesn't seem like that long ago that I was sitting where you are today, so all those sayings and proverbs about how "time flies" — they are, alas, true.

Getting older is inevitable, but how you age is your choice. My first suggestion to you young people is to always, always keep your sense of humor. Life is just too short for you to be too serious, and you are not so old to be out of touch with the silly, giggling child that you once were. As you make your mark in this world, hopefully that little child will be your constant companion.

Make time for silence in your lives. Turn off your cells and pods and computers and save moments in your day to listen to a voice that will speak to you for a lifetime, and never need recharging. It's called your conscience. It is the voice that speaks to each of us every day, telling us what is right and what is good. My advice: Listen to that voice.

Forgive everyone for everything. Self-pity and victimization are self-inflicted wounds, and they can last a lifetime. Forgiveness, even to those you don't think deserve it, is good medicine. It heals old wounds and frees you to get on with the important things in life.

Especially forgive your parents for their reprimands and restrictions and know that in a flash of time you will be in their place with children of your own.

Don't fret over your confusion and indecision — they will be with you for all of your lives. They will frustrate you, but they will also lead you to discoveries and insights and deeper understandings that the self-assured will likely never know.

Beware of people who have all the answers. They're struggling just like you, but don't want you to know that. Before you envy your classmates who "have it all together," you should know that they are just as confused as you are.

Try to find work that rewards more than your pocketbook. Ease and comfort are byproducts and not the ultimate goal of your labor. Money, as the cliche goes, does not buy happiness.

And to you out there who are confused, uncertain, shy beyond words — I want to remind you that the world will unfold to you in ways that you cannot yet imagine. Be open to this world and know that you have a place in it.

And to you whose academic success has been a family mandate, try to be as comfortable with your imperfections as you are proud of your achievements.

And to you who have yet to understand a purpose in education, I promise you that you will, sooner or later, when you seek success or a deeper appreciation of all that this life has to offer.

And you — who is blessed with innate talent but cursed with chronic laziness — I hope you will one day realize that your gift to the world comes in a very small package unless, and until, you are willing to work hard to develop it.

And finally to you out there who is so cautious and careful and wary about breaking out of your comfort zone, take a chance once in a while and venture into the new and the untried. Playing it safe has its place, but so does taking a risk now and then.

One of my favorite lines comes from one of my favorite movies, "Auntie Mame," where Rosalind Russell declares, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

So my precious children, who are soon to be separating from the familiar womb of public education and going off into uncharted territory, I want to say, "Be prepared to whet your appetite, for an amazing spread has been laid out before you. Expand your tastes, increase your appetites, and step up to this great banquet of life.

"There's something there for everyone and you're all invited to partake."

And now, before I put you to sleep with all of this great wisdom, just a few last thoughts.

There are some spectacular kids in this audience and in a few days at your graduation, you will shine brightly, and deservedly, for your amazing accomplishments. But in the wider constellation of lesser achievers, there are equally amazing kids whose time to shine is yet to come. I celebrate you all!

This is a bittersweet time for me as I am graduating into a new life as well. It's called retirement. I'm leaving behind a familiar world and venturing into the uncertainty of another. My bolder, adventurous self is excited about new pages turning, while the creature of habit that also dwells within, who finds undeniable comfort in sticking to a familiar script year after year, is just a little apprehensive.

Some of you have thanked me for being a good teacher and I want to thank you too. You have no idea how much you have given back to me each and every day that we have been together. I'll remember this class, always.

Goodbye and good luck to you all. Try to make this world a better place for yourselves, for your children, for our planet and for my grandchildren who follow just behind.

I love you guys.

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