A High School Graduation Speech on Making a Difference in the World and the Pursuit of Value Instead of Success

Last Updated: 25 Feb 2023
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We have spent these past four years reading textbooks, taking tests, and fighting with our teachers and peers. But what have we really learned? Not much. The things that most of us have gotten out of high school are how to memorize answers long enough to pass a test, how to use a calculator, how to navigate SparkNotes, and which teachers will give extensions on projects. For the most part, we haven't taken the initiative to figure much out for ourselves. A lot of us have expected to be handed the skills we'll need to make it on our own: creativity, compassion, innovation, independence.

But here's the thing: no one can simply give those things to us. The past four years and all our lives, for that matter-we've essentially had everything handed to us. We've been promised that if we do all our homework and try our best, we can be rock stars or astronauts or presidents one day. We've been encouraged to dream big, but we haven't quite put into perspective how much work it takes and how unlikely it is that all our dreams will come true. The truth is we're not all special little snowflakes who are unlike anyone else; we're more like drops of water in a massive sea of humanity—undistinguishable in the eyes of the masses. Our dreams are not the exception to reality, and the world won't work itself out for us simply because we're "special." These American individualist values were good to us as children with big dreams, but we've used them to justify unrealistic expectations; they have been a disservice to us in that way.

When we walk across this stage, we leave the shelter of big dreams in high school for the realities of hard work in the real world. Realistically, we probably won't see any rock stars or actors or NFL players at our class reunion. But that doesn't mean we can't be successful; it means we may have to rethink our definition of success. As Albert Einstein once said, "Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value." The value he spoke of is not monetary, but the personal fulfillment that comes with adding something positive to society. Don't seek solely for wealth; seek for opportunities to do good for others.

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Simply by attending high school, we are better educated than most of the world's population. By just living in this country, we are wealthier and more fortunate than billions of people. We will encounter hardships in our adult lives, but in the grand scheme of things, we will always be incredibly lucky. We are better equipped to help the less fortunate than are people of any other society; why let it go to waste? We can assist people with no money for food or no place to live, both in our own nation and in others. And we should. By doing service for others and improving our society, we make meaningful use of our time and resources. By doing good, we find value for ourselves. That is what real success is.

I'm not saying we have to go out and start nonprofit organizations or personally feed all the starving children in Africa; that's just unrealistic. But there is absolutely nothing stopping us from improving our surroundings. As cliché as it may sound, the little things really do make a difference: brightening someone's day, dropping a dollar in the donation box for cancer research, spending a little free time volunteering. These small steps lead the way to real changes and improvements in the world. We typically think of success as making a living for ourselves and finding happiness in life, and the realest happiness comes from impacting the life of another human being or making a positive change. No satisfaction is quite as tangible as the sense of fulfillment from truly helping someone else.

One of my favorite teachers, Mr. (Teacher), said, "Go out and make a difference in the world. If you do, our job was well done." The people in this room understand success. They want us to do well. Our teachers have inspired us to undertake meaningful endeavors and have given us advice for our lives-always ask questions, always have a dog, always ask for the lawyer. Our parents have taught us the morals and values that we should try to live by and pass on. Thank you to the educators, parents, families, and leaders who have supported us, inspired us, and encouraged us to take action. They've all done their jobs; now it's our time to step up, grow up, and make an impact. Congratulations to the Class of (Year). I hope you all do well, and I hope you all do good.

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A High School Graduation Speech on Making a Difference in the World and the Pursuit of Value Instead of Success. (2023, Feb 25). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-high-school-graduation-speech-on-making-a-difference-in-the-world-and-the-pursuit-of-value-instead-of-success/

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