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Commencement Speech: Principal Dave Adney

The following is a transcripts of the speech that Minnetonka High School Principal David Adney gave at the 2011 Graduation Ceremony.

Good evening. In just a few minutes the class of 2011 will receive diplomas to mark their graduation from high school. The diplomas these graduates receive represent years of hard work, commitment, dedication and achievement and will mark a turning point in the lives of these young people.

Certainly the class of 2011 will be greatly missed and most of us here tonight can testify to their incredible academic achievements, passionate performances in the arts and memorable competitions in athletics. If those were the only memories we had of this class it would be enough to place them as one of the all-time finest groups of students to complete their education at MHS.

But this group of 689 seniors is so much more than grade point averages, inspiring recitals and championships. This class is unique not because of what they accomplished, but how they accomplished it. They took great care of each other.

In an era when it has become easy for young people to focus on individual needs and wants, the class of 2011 chose to leave no one behind. The cohesiveness, camaraderie and caring this class has demonstrated is something for which they will long be remembered.

And they have done it with style. In the last few days of school they showed a level of leadership seldom seen. Do you realize that most of them drove to school before sunrise so they could prepare appropriately for their final tests? Of course what they gained in academic insights was lost in parking accuracy of their vehicles, but you have to love their commitment and dedication.

And on that final day how did these wonderful leaders choose to say goodbye to 13 years of their education? Perhaps a rendition of the school song; no, too emotional. How about one last massive study session: no, too cerebral. Maybe a group hug: no, too warm and sweaty.

As their final act of unity, spirit and pride they chose an activity taught to them in their early years. An activity meant to be inclusive, fun, and competitive. The class of 2011 returned to their roots and played dodge ball one last time. Luckily for the staff this class is very private so no one in the entire school knew this event would take place except the seniors.

Seniors, as we prepare to celebrate this turning point I think it is appropriate to share one last observation, and hopefully a bit of wisdom, with the class of 2011. 

Until now your education has been meticulously planned for you, usually in discrete packets. You generally knew what was going to be taught and how you would be assessed so that you could prove you had learned something. Thank your teachers and parents for that.

The funny thing about “real life” is that there are no longer daily objectives written on a board to guide you. Learning becomes more difficult to quantify and most “real life” tests are unannounced, especially tests involving your character, ethics and empathy for others. By the way, these tests may well continue for at least the next 60 years.

You will learn that your education will change forms. The most important lessons you learn may well occur at 2:00 in the morning in a spirited debate in your dorm or a coffee house rather than in a first hour political science seminar. Lessons will come disguised as opinions, sometimes from people you aren’t particularly interested in listening to. Listen especially carefully to these unscripted and unsolicited opinions, they will help develop and define your belief system.

As a side note, remember when you thought your parents didn’t know a lot? Watch how incredibly smart they become over the next decade. For the most part this intellectual leap will not be from attending academic classes; it turns out that parents are pretty skilled at picking up on “real life” lessons. Continue to talk and listen to your parents. They have learned from their mistakes and will save you much stress and anxiety. They also will not charge you for their expertise and most of the time you may even get a free meal out of the deal.

Class of twenty eleven, here’s a final thought for you. It’s one that I have shared with my daughters when they graduated from high school and seems to have served them well.

Set your goals high and strive to develop your skills and potential, but be careful in how you measure your success. If you choose to be “the best in the world” remember that that title is fleeting and usually placed on you temporarily by others. Your success will be judged by those with whom you compete. Being the “best in the world” does not necessarily guarantee that you will develop all your skills; it might simply mean you have outshone others in a rather limited area and time frame.

Here is a challenge for you. Rather than being the “best in the world” strive to be the “best for the world”. By being the “best for the world” you will constantly be challenged to independently develop your unique talents and only you will be able to judge the success of your life. Also, by matching your unique skills to the challenges of the changing world you will more likely live life to the fullest and in so doing help others to achieve their goals.

If you choose to be the “best for the world” the world will become your teacher and your growth won’t be based on speed, competition or trends. Your growth will be challenging, meaningful, fulfilling and most importantly, lifelong. By striving to be the “best for the world” you will guarantee that the gifts you have now will be fully realized and that will be a legacy of which we will all be proud.

Seniors, thank you for an excellent year. Well done!  

 

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