5th Grade Graduation Speech at P.S. 329 in Brooklyn, New York
Thank you Miss Dawson, teachers, and parents for giving me the opportunity to address your bright children today. If you don't mind, I would like to turn the podium to address them.
There were two students from the same neighborhood who went to the same elementary school, P.S. 329, also known as Surfside School in Brooklyn, New York.
One student's name was Alex. Alex was a straight A student. He excelled in every subject. Alex did exactly what he was told to do. He goes home to do his homework after school. Alex only dreams at night.
The other student's name was Francis. Francis was a crooked F student—they say it is impossible to get all Fs and be straight. Francis didn't like any subject AT SCHOOL though she liked learning and as a result she was often caught daydreaming. She was really passionate about art and would get in trouble for doodling on her desk. After school she would walk the streets looking for murals and graffiti. Her homework incomplete.
Who would you rather be? Alexis or Francis?
Fast-forward a few years to high school. Finally...electives. Francis gets to take an art class and her passion for learning starts to show. She gets her first A. Alex the A student is taking biology for the first time and he is struggling. He is afraid to ask for help because he has never had to ask for it before. He associates asking for help with being dumb instead of courageous, so he continues to fail and gets his first F.
Francis can't wait to show her parents her report card. No murals today. When she shows it to them with a big smile on her face, all they see are the Fs. Her parents immediately withdraw her from her art class and instead she is given a study hall period to bring up her Fs.
Alex's parents know when his report cards come so they ask about it even though he tries to hide it. Despite 5 As in his other classes, all they see is the F. He is taken out of P.E. and given the same study hall period that Francis has so that he can focus on bringing up his F.
Who would you rather be? Alexis or Francis?
You see...in the long run, Francis and Alex end up in the exact same place. Alex was a hard worker. That's would got him straight As. But despite his good grades, Alex's true intelligence was never challenged. For the most part, school was a walk in the park for him, but he needed someone to push him to run or better yet fly. It's not until you push someone to their limits that they realize that they are limitless.
Despite getting crooked Fs, Francis is extremely smart. It's just that her creative energy was never channeled. She was lead to believe that her creativity isn't valuable when in fact, creativity and innovation is what keeps our economy alive...it's what keeps her alive.
In reality, Alex doesn't like school just as much as Francis doesn't like school—he could fake the funk but she couldn't. Where Francis has a leg up on Alex is that she knows what she was passionate about...what makes her tick...what she loves to do at an early age. Everyone is encouraging Alex to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, or accounting because he's "smart", but nobody is encouraging Francis to be an artist.
Graduates! Our parents grew up in a world where being well-rounded was the thing to be. Be a well-rounded student and be a well-rounded citizen. But the world has changed. Whereas our parents were only competing against the person sitting next to them in their classroom, you are competing against everyone your age across the entire world from India to China and Europe. This leveling of the playing field is called globalization, which is a hard concept to understand if you have yet to travel outside of New York or the United States. In today's world, a 4.0 isn't even enough on its own. And passion isn't enough on its own either. Success requires hard work AND passion.
In addition to globalization, the internet has changed the way we live and learn. In our parents' day...you know B.C...before cable, it was possible to be an expert at multiple things. But today, information is expanding so rapidly that it's hard to stay ahead on more than one or two subjects and since everyone has access to same information at the same time, nobody has an advantage. It used to be that if you had an Encyclopedia Britannica set at home, you were ahead of your peers, but now with the internet and Wikipedia, the playing field is flat...and packed.
Whether you happen to love a school subject or a subject NOT taught at school, the way to win in the 21st century is be your best. They say that to become the best in the world at something...to be an expert...you should consider the 10,000 hour rule. The 10,000 hour rule suggest that you need to practice whatever it is that you want to be great at for 10,000 hours before achieving expertise. 10,000 hours equals 20 hours per week 50 weeks per year for 10 years. That's equivalent to studying one subject from kindergarten to today every day, so you better start now...now as in this summer...at least 3 hours per day 7 days per week.
Speaking of 10 years...10 years from now Francis and Alex will be graduating from college. They will be 22 years old. Imagine who 12 year-old Francis could become if she could bring up her other grades just enough to get her parents support of her art so that should could CHANNEL her passion into her art during and after school and begin chipping away at her 10,000 hours. Imagine who 12-year-old Alex could become if he could combine his academic excellence with a passion that CHALLENGED him.
In elementary school, A stands for ahead or excellent, but in on the global playing field an A here could stand for average elsewhere. Sometimes when we try to be great at everything...the jack-of-all-trades...we master none. Alex understands hard work, but imagine if he focused his energy on something he genuinely loved to do so he could experience his inner excellence.
In elementary school, F stands for failure, but in life it can mean fearless. Fear of failure is the #1 inhibitor of dreams. They say if you haven't failed, then you aren't dreaming big enough.
Francis understands failure well—she's been doing it all of her life. And she also understands her passions. Imagine if she could pursue her passions fearlessly.
We each have a little bit of Alex and Francis inside of us....parents and teachers included. To succeed in life we need Alex's work ethic and self-discipline and we also need Francis creativity and passion. Greatness is inside of each of you like the tree inside every seed. If you've ever looked at a package of seeds, it never just says SEEDS. They are always named by the tree they are destined to become. Before me, I see more than just 5th graders...more than just a bunch of seeds—I see an amazing amazon forest of unlimited potential and endless possibilities.
Follow your passions and seek excellence at anything you do and I guarantee that you'll keep growing up.
Congratulations to the college class of 2020!