This past weekend I had a unique opportunity to participate in the Commencement Exercises at the Phelps School, a private school for boys in Malvern, PA. I’ve done a lot of speeches and presentations, but this was my first commencement address. In preparation I tried to recall something from my own high school (or college) commencement addresses. I couldn’t recall anything. Nothing. I remember that actor Paul Sorvino offered the commencement address at my graduation from the University of Scranton, but I remember not one word or idea from the actual address. (Sorry, Mr. Sorvino. Please don’t let that dissuade you from donating to our important work at IEE). Most people I spoke to had had a similar experience regarding commencement addresses—although most everybody had a bad experience seared in their memory—long, tedious, boring, hot. Suffice to say, that with the power of low expectations as a guide, I went for it!
I know these are high school students. I know that they don’t have a lot of patience or interest in the thoughts and advice of fast-aging bald man, sweating all over his notes. But, I also knew from the Phelps Senior Speeches I had observed the night before that there was clearly a capacity in these young men for self-reflection and a willingness to share with courage their experiences and convictions. I tried to respect them by doing the same. For those interested, here’s a link to the address I delivered. https://backup.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8969688f596571ab9c9c
I must say, I enjoyed this experience at a very deep level. I genuinely respect and appreciate the vision that guides the staff and administrators at Phelps, and I enjoyed every part of the commencement experience at Phelps. After all the work we have done with students around the country this year in our Power2 programming, I think this was an important capstone for me personally. Like the staff at Phelps, we’ve been in the trenches with our Power2 students for a tough, but rewarding year. At times we’ve annoyed them; they have certainly annoyed us. But hopefully they know that we truly want the best for them, which is why we challenged them with intense and intentional programming essential for their success in school, work, and beyond. We didn’t give them cheesy ice-breakers and other ridiculous forms of brain candy which often goes under the name “character education.” We took away their chill time, their time for doing homework, and forced them to think and reflect on important ideas. We also worked tirelessly to respond to their critique. That still doesn’t mean that they love it like you love a trip to the amusement park; hopefully, however, they will remember it the way you remember a challenging hike, or other similar difficult, but impactful experiences in your life. They will always be our first graduates. We appreciate them and wish them well.