2019 Middle School Graduation Keynote Speech
Dr. Grauer presented this graduation keynote address about the importance of courage as these 8th grade students begin their high school adventures. After the event, he was approached in person and though much correspondence to share the text. Please feel free to share this speech and photos with your friends, social media friends, and grandparents!
Middle School Class of 2019, we find that you are ready to matriculate and to come of age into high school because you have learned our core values. But there is one unwritten core value we made less mention of: Courage.
Courage is the core value we did not write down, perhaps because it is at the heart of all of the others.
Courage is a heart word. It is based on the old French word for heart - Coeur. You have heard of people who have a “big heart” or who “speak from the heart.” That’s Courage. Perhaps you have met someone who will Dis-courage?—someone with no heart! Those are not the people you think have a big heart! People who "dis" are feeling cowardly.
But what about those who En-courage? That’s our mission as a school. To teach and encourage. The encouragers are the ones who, through their big hearts, give us courage.
What does it mean to have courage or to have a big heart? How do you know you have courage? First: middle school is a big step. Some people find this the hardest time in all of schooling—and you have persevered. Now you are bravely setting out into the wilder world.
Do courageous people have to do brave deeds? What’s that like? Do they have to kill giants and fight dragons? I don’t think so. You just have to step into the arena. Just try stuff. Play it like a rap: it’s encourage, enjoy, joystick, stick’em up, up and at ’em, try stuff, follow your heart, you can do this courage. Go for it!
Each of you, high-five the person on each side of you. Now: behind or in front of you! Go for it! You’re fearless! This summer and in high school, have the heart-courage to keep your promises. Do more than you promised. No excuses. Go deep. This is called: The courage of your convictions!
At Grauer, we have a name for the courage to keep at it until the job is really done: it is called Mastery Learning, and it is the only real way to learn. Stay on it until whatever we are working on is shiny and great. Want to develop courage? Try some Honors classes or some expeditions that your friends are not on. Leave your cellphone home for a week. Try an art class or dance club not just even though you think you are bad at art or dance: try it BECAUSE you are bad at art or dance! Go for it.
Most important of all: the least understood definition of courage: the most courageous person is the one who is the kindest. This, in some traditions, is known as warrior courage, or the braveheart—the braveheart stands up for the good treatment of others in a world that has conflict and mean people. Traditionally, warriors are protectors, not at all aggressive or militant. By conquering fear, the warrior brings peace. When someone needs a hand, the braveheart notices.
We need graduates who stay kind even when all around them are not. Those are my best words for you today. Your parents might want everything to work out perfectly for you along the way or maybe even to fix things for you, but that is no way to develop courage. You can do this. High school means Independence. The courageous among you will compile a boatload of out of class experiences, friends, and thinking skills, and, when it’s wrapping up for you like for our seniors later today, you will be ready to leave home.
Now the high school pages are blank. Those of you who can fill the pages with the unwritten core value, courage, will be happy and successful.
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