Commencement Speech 2021

Letter to My Students – Fourth Letter in a Series

First, as always and since July 3, 1989 – I love you.  You mean a lot to me.  One of the cool things about being a high school music teacher?  More often than not … MUCH MORE OFTEN (sorry – NOT sorry – for the poor grammar; I am a  music teacher, not an English teacher & writing is a hobby for me, like golf – both hobbies humble me 😊) … the students who are in my music classes choose to be there.  So, any human being who chooses to be with me is a BLESSING / a gift / and I am honored!  One more time… and not the last time … I love you.

My thought for my students today is: please … block the idea that the outside of you or anyone is THE best side of you and the most important side of you!  BLOCK THAT CRAP! 

What is the best side or really … could be the most important side …  YOUR HEART!!  Guard your heart! 

Commence Speech 2021

Good Evening.  We need to begin with THE AMERICAN DREAM IS ALIVE AND WELL.  For the next five-to-seven minutes, I am going to share with you, in a time of coming out of the response to COVID-19 / riots / protests and the possibility of more uprising / anarchy / economic disaster in the form of inflation, how THE AMERICAN DREAM IS ALIVE AND WELL. 

First – let’s look at James Truslow Adams 1931 book THE EPIC OF AMERICA as featured in John Maxwell’s Book CHANGE YOUR WORLD

           In 1931 the phrase THE AMERICAN DREAM was coined by James Truslow Adain his book THE EPIC OF AMERICA. During the Great Depression, James Truslow Adams saw the great promise of the United States, where people could rise up and pursue their potential without many of the societal or economic barriers people in other parts of the world had battled for generations.  James Truslow Adams wrote:

          The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.  It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it.  It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. 

          We believe what has been called the American Dream could become every country’s dream because everyone desires to reach their potential and live a better life.  But there must be a ladder available to them.  Does the ladder create the dream?  Does the dream create the ladder?  The answer may be both – as long as there is HOPE.  When you have HOPE, the words of Nido Qubein, the president of High Point University, ring true:  “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

Ladies and Gentleman – due to the fact of the concept of the AMERICAN DREAM, living in our nation is the goal of thousands of people from other nations.  The American Dream has survived many things, including and not limited to the TWENTIETH CENTURY:  depression; two world wars; assignations of President Kennedy / his brother Robert Kennedy and The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Then, moving into the twenty-first century:  September 11, 2001; wars in Afghanistan & Iraq; tension between law enforcement officials and citizens; protests; riots leading to destruction of businesses / livelihoods; and of course the response to COVID-19 which also led to the destruction of businesses / livelihoods.  However, among all of that, we have seen great inventions made / wonderful entertainment & art created / great books written / yes, I will include sports achievements / incredible scientific achievements, including the creation a vaccine for COVID-19. 

As many generations prior to your generation, we are at a crossroads.  You are going to need make choices.  The choices each one of you makes are going to determine the future direction of our nation.  Even the choice of:  the future being one based on principles our nation has had since July 4, 1776 or the future being based on a new set of principles.

I would encourage you to choose to continue to improve our nation based on the principles established on July 4, 1776.  Why?  Because, our nation is improving!  All the wrongs our nation has had are being corrected, in part, thanks to those founding principles. 

Let’s just look at the five “freedoms” the first amendment protects:  speech / religion / press / right to assemble / and the right to petition the government.  You have another stronger set of “freedoms?” 

Within those freedoms, we abolished slavery / gave women the right to vote / Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and made several other societal advances.  All of those are a part of the American Dream.

As music has a beautiful sense of freedom in spite of boundaries, our nation has a beautiful sense of freedom in spite of the boundaries of the constitution.

For the past four years, your Oakmont teachers and staff have done all they can to get you on a ladder for your opportunity to build your American Dream.  To build your American Dream, use what you have been taught since kindergarten and the principles our nation has enjoyed for hundreds of years.  As James Truslow Adams said, as Americans, each of us is given the freedom to increase our ability and our achievements.  Now, with this culmination of your K-12 education, you will have even more freedom to increase your ability and achievement.  As the son of two alcoholic parents, an abusive relationship that led to my mom and dad being divorced, as a child being on welfare and Medi-Cal, mom earning less money in a year than it cost for me to attend the University of the Pacific, I want to be  recognized by others for what I have accomplished in fifty-five years and beyond, regardless of fortuitous (happening by accident or chance rather than by design) circumstances of birth or position.  The American way.  The American Dream. 

Since you have been alive, your high school graduation can be the start of where you are going to go! 

As many of those who have gone before you, create an American Dream where others may enjoy the creation of their American Dream.  You know… pay it forward.

We are very proud of you Class of 2021.  In your four years of being in high school, you have endured fires that stopped activities and of course, you endured the response to COVID 19 that also stopped many activities / changed many activities.  We hope those days when you thought, am I seeing the end of the world / the end of the United States of America, you saw the answer previous generations gave to the same question:  NOT WHILE I AM ALIVE AND NOT AS LONG AS I LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY. 

God bless you and please – so others may create and live their American Dream, create and live your American Dream .