Good afternoon graduates, parents, families, community members, and guests to our 2016 graduation ceremony. My name is Chris Dodge and I proud to the be principal here at the Dexter Park School. Today we honor, recognize, and celebrate our 6th grade students and you, their families and support networks.
As I said, it gives me great pride to be standing here and addressing this special group of students.These students have heard me speak for all year about embracing challenge and seeing struggle as an opportunity for growth and learning, and I am not going to repeat that (for their benefit). Today before they move on, I want provide one last bit of advice: do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to fail, for failure brings about an opportunity to learn. Learn from our mistakes, learn that we can pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and learn that we have in an inner resilience that we didn’t know existed. If you asked anyone in this room to name a moment in their life when they were most proud of themselves, they wouldn’t tell you about something that came easy to them or they didn’t have to work at, tirelessly. They would tell you about a struggle or challenge and how what they learned propelled them to greatness.
I stress this students and staff because 1. challenges are all around us and will never go away 2. it is a skill that can be taught, modeled, and fostered in our students 3. we know that highly successful people have a don’t quit attitude in the face of adversity and many of them cite the critical turning point in their success was not an award or invention, it was, in fact, a failure. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was once fired from the company he started. Abraham Lincoln failed in his first run for president in 1856. Walt Disney failed out of school, his first company, Laugh O Gram Studios, went bankrupt, and he was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough”. All three of these individuals went on the change the American landscape forever and it was challenge and even failure that made them successful.
When you leave here and and face life’s challenges, because you will, go into it fearless and if you fall, pick yourself up and move on. Most importantly than all of this, though, do not be afraid to be yourselves. Bring all the energy, life, and passion that you brought to our building and to our school; it’s contagious and cannot be ignored. Don’t be afraid to help someone in need, to play, dance, and just be silly. Be who YOU want to be not what someone tells you to be: don’t be afraid to have a dance party at recess, to sing in front of the entire school, to support a friend when tragedy strikes, to dress up like Star Wars characters on May 4th, to show appreciation and kindness even to someone you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to plan a flashmob. Life is about moments, and moments happen when people like you take risks.
If you fail, those around you will not bask in your failure, they will marvel at your relentless pursuit of success. It was basketball legend Michael Jordan, who said: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Many things in life are what you make of it, so do not be afraid to take the final shot. I congratulate you and proud of each and every one of you.