I graduated from a military school in 1958. The yearbook reminded me that “Moser is never on top in any field.” True. I wasn’t. But, back then, I didn’t care.
I did graduate though— thanks to the generosity of my history teacher who allowed me to re-take my failed final exam (and who, I am certain, graded that second exam with compassion for a boy who couldn’t care less about history…or math, or English, or chemistry, or anything else academic).
My folks gave me a record player for my graduation present. It wasn’t very sophisticated, but it played the music I enjoyed listening to, which was not the music my classmates listened to. While they listened to Harvey and the Moonglows, the Platters, and Elvis Presley, I was off in my own world listening to Nat King Cole, Rachmaninoff, and Broadway musicals like Oklahoma, and South Pacific.
In South Pacific, a character named Bloody Mary, a large Polynesian woman, belts out a tune in which she tells her beautiful brown daughter that “if you don’t have a dream, how you gon’ have a dream come true.”
And it is this matter of having dreams that I address this morning.
Good morning and a big hello to the Williston Northampton School Class of 2013, teachers, parents, grandparents, siblings, bagpipers, webcast-watchers, and kids. Welcome and thank you all for showing up to our high school graduation.
Speaking in front of a crowd of 1000+ people is something that not a lot of people get to experience in their lifetimes and being awarded this opportunity today is a really special honor. Some people try and picture the audience in their underwear to get the nerves down. I just stuck to not wearing contacts, so if something comes out wrong, well sometimes you can’t see the whole picture in widescreen vision.
So, what’s next? Seriously though, did we get that figured out? I need to let my mom know…
Editor’s note: The following speech was presented by John Katzenbach during the 172nd Commencement Exercises at the Williston Northampton School on May 26, 2013.
I was delighted to be asked to stand in for the Ambassador from Colombia at this graduation. After all – what is a graduation speech? Mostly it is an opportunity for older folks to exhort younger people with all sorts of incredibly heartfelt and probably utterly useless advice. But – that said – You are – for better or worse – the classic captive audience. That is, it is my sincere belief that until Bob Hill actually hands you that diploma it is unlikely you will flee from this ceremony, regardless of what I say.
So, my first thought in putting this talk together was – obviously: What would the ambassador from Colombia tell you?
This was easy: One: Learn Spanish – a very useful language.
And two: Be diplomatic.