(Practising hand lettering in my sketchbook)
Once upon a time I was asked to be a guest speaker at my student’s primary (Americans read: elementary) school graduation. It’s not just a privilege to be asked to address and advice a crowd of young minds, it’s also very scary. What do you say to the masses when handed the mike? This is what I said:
Their Theme: With God We Believe, achieve and aspire to be.
My Speech: A Three Step Process to Greatness
Many of you may have seen me coming in and out of your school for the last few years, saying hellos, sharing a smile and holding classes with a student. Yes, i am a teacher of the visually impaired. I am attached to the insert name of job here; I travel around meeting students who are low visioned, visually impaired or blind to ensure they have everything they need to succeed in the classroom. However, today I do not come to you as all that which I have just mentioned. Today, I come to you as a national who with God, believes, achieves and aspires to be.
When I was introduced to your theme I found myself asking the obvious question. Believe, achieve and aspire to be…What? It did not take me long to come up with the answer as that statement almost finishes itself. It seems to scream of the pages to me, simply and clear that the answer is this, with God, believe, achieve and aspire to be great.
How does one however become great? Listen closely and I promise you, this too is simple. You see, every great man or woman during the course of history has one thing in common; they made themselves relevant.
What I mean is, they did something. Something.. very simple…Something that can unit nations and pull them apart again. Something, that can cause revolutions, something that can make a disciple walk on water, something that can bring about peace, something that can exact change. Something…only they could do and only you can do. Something that starts so small that for a while…only you can feel it.
All of humanity that has ever been great and relevant to the world at large started by doing this one thing; sewing a seed of belief in their heart.
Two brothers a long time ago, believed that they had a vision worth trying for and created the air plane. A tired black woman believed that every human being deserved to sit wherever they want on a bus despite the colour of their skin and began a movement that made it possible for you and even me to be counted as of equal worth in this world no matter who our parents were.
I believed, that even if my eyesight was so bad, I could not see the blackboard from where I sat in my classroom, when I was your age, that I could be relevant to this country and to this world, I could make a difference in my country because I have talents, because I can do things. Now some things I can do well, some things not so well but I CAN do things and I can learn.
Someday, that day may be today, that day may be yesterday, it may be tomorrow or it maybe on your first day of secondary school when you look down at a subject you haven’t studied before and feel so very excited to start it… When that happens, when that day comes remember; believe that you are capable of something, there is something you can do well, some things not so well but you can learn so that can change too.
I urge you, do not doubt that feeling, take that first tiny, easy step towards greatness, that step that only you can take, not your mom, not your older sisters and brothers, not your favourite cousin or your nicest teacher, the step only you can take and believe it.
Believe that feeling inside of yourself, that feeling that will tell you that you CAN help, do, be, something great. Then prepare to take the second step…
Now…this is the part that is not so easy. The second step is to achieve. This will require strength and ‘stick-to-it-iveness’. On your road to adulthood you will find many hurdles that may seek to get in the way of your achieving the greatness you believe is within you; classes will get hard, much harder than they ever were while you were in primary school. You will meet new people, some will help, guide and love you and some will not but in the words of a famous writer by the name of Mark Twain and I quote:
‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great…’
In simple terms, watch the company you keep because if you want to achieve you must a line yourself with those who also seek achievement. Create good study habits, be prepared to work hard for your success because that seed of belief I told you to plant within you self? It will not grow if it is not watered with hard work and diligence.
This brings us to the third step. Aspire to be, once you have come to believe that you can, come to achieve success in your work and by building good character traits such as manners, punctuality and such, that only seek to improve your life, you must concentrate on deciding what you want from yourself for it is not enough to believe you can do something, you must decide what it is you want to do.
You must also remember to be fair to yourself, no matter how elaborate the dream, whether you want to be the first female prime minister or producer of the first national television series or the best doctor, lawyer or teacher this fine country ever had, decide on the road you want to travel and do not be saddened when people look at you confused at your choice. If people have never heard that dream before, be encouraged for you could be the first; aspire to be the one that succeeds.
Did you notice that as a spoke about the three step process I have not yet mentioned God? That is because just like in your theme He is to be at the front of all of these steps. You need to tangle God around everything you do, as you believe you must believe in His ability to never leave you nor forsake you and praise Him for creating in you the talents and skills you do have.
As you achieve you must be mindful that nothing is possible without His help and as you aspire to be great you must remember that He breathed the universe into life, he willed it into existence as He will your existence once you keep close to Him and follow His instructions for you.
So grandaunts, as you step out beyond these safe walls you knew so well for this segment of your school lives; believe that you are beautifully and marvellously made by our Father in heaven. Achieve success through hard work, surround yourself with a positive working environment and courageously aspire to be nothing less than great!
You know what's funny? Back then when I gave that speech all I was thinking about is doing my job and doing it well. I was thinking about delivering a speech I believe is true from an earnest place. . Today, more than a year later what i remember distinctly is that feeling of pride. Of course I was proud of my student, she was graduating! All our hard work had brought us this. Thought that is not the pride I am talking about. You see my student was very proud of her teacher that day too. How bout that.
Peace.Love. Be Great.