My Message to the Class of 2019
Allison Brown, Superintendent of Schools
If you’re sitting on this stage today, it means that you’ve already done a lot of the things you need to do to be successful. You’re about to receive your high school diploma, so you must have done something right. It’s an article of faith in our society that success breeds success, that if you’re good at what you do and keep at it, if you just keep collecting trophies and awards and accolades, you will continue on a trajectory that will lead you ever upwards for your entire life.
Unfortunately, life works out that way for hardly anyone. The truth is, it isn’t success that breeds success, but failure. Some of the most accomplished people in the world suffered devastating loss and rejection before they became the great achievers that we know them for today. Consider a few examples:
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old, and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas.”
The Beatles were rejected by a major recording label because the studio didn’t like their sound and thought “they have no future in show business.”
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, after which he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried.
Oprah Winfrey was demoted from a job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. The list is very long because, frankly, nearly everyone experiences failure before they find success. For every individual whose life has been smooth sailing from day one – if there is even a single person who fits that category -- there are millions of others who get knocked down again and again. This is something you all learned on Challenge Day, when you were freshman, didn’t you? That some other people’s lives look great compared to your own, until you stop and listen and find out that everyone’s been through something. Sometimes that something is really, really hard. Often it’s something that you’ve also been through yourself. No one gets through their days without struggling at some point.
That’s why it’s so fantastic to see you up here today. It’s not because it’s been a joy ride since kindergarten: it hasn’t been one uninterrupted string of perfect scores, perfect performances, perfect experiences. Your most outstanding accomplishment is not that you made it because of the great things you did. It’s because of all the not-so-great things that happened along the way, but which didn’t knock you out of the race. It’s because you kept going, you regained your focus, your found support wherever you could -- in your friends, your family, your teachers – and you just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s your resilience and your resourcefulness that I’m most proud of. These are the very qualities that will see you through in the years ahead, whatever life may bring. The certificates on the wall and great report cards are wonderful, and it is right that we celebrate them. But they don’t add up to success all by themselves. The essential ingredient is the strength that comes from facing your troubles and your fears, and coming out the other side, more determined than ever. This is main reason why I have such confidence that you all have a very bright future ahead.
My warmest congratulations to the Roslyn High School Class of 2019.
Tilles Center, June 21, 2019