My Valedictorian Speech

This is the speach I gave as valedictorian of Tuba City Highschool's class of 1996.

In school we all learn about fruit trees, and which trees grow which fruit. Apple trees grow apples, cherry trees grow cherries. In a story I read one little boy presented an interesting idea. He was asked by his teacher what fruit a lemon tree grew. Being young and innocent, he quickly responded, “Pineapples!” At first everyone was a little confused but the teacher commented, “Buddy, if you can turn every lemon life gives you into a pineapple you’re going to be just fine.”

We can take life, and problems, at face value and just deal with them. Or even better, we can take that problem, or “lemon,” and turn it into something to benefit us, or a “pineapple,” then we will be all the better for it.

However, there are times when those lemons seem to be thrown at us faster than we can make pineapple, and of course we drop a few. When this is happening just think about this little story Robert Fulgham told in his book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

A troubled man paid a visit to his Rabbi. A wise and good old rabbi, as all rabbis try to be. “Rabbi,” said he, wringing his hands, “I am a failure. More than half the time I do not succeed in doing what I must do.”

“Oh?” said the rabbi.

“Please say something wise, rabbi,” said the man.

After much pondering, the rabbi spoke as follows: “Ah, my son, I give you this wisdom: Go and look on page 930 of The New York Times Almanac for the year 1970, and you will find peace of mind maybe.”

“Ah,” said the man, and he went away and did that thing.

Now this is what he found: The listing of the lifetime batting averages of all the greatest baseball players. Ty Cobb, the greatest slugger of them all, had a life time average of only .367. Even Babe Ruth didn’t do so good.

So the man went back to the rabbi and said in a questioning tone: “Ty Cobb - .367 - that’s it?”

“Right,” said the rabbi. “Ty Cobb - .367. He got a hit once out of every three times at bat. He didn’t even bat .500 - so what can you expect already?”

“Ah,” said the man, who thought he was a wretched failure because only half the time he did not succeed at what he must do.

Theology is amazing, and holy books abound.

The reason I have told these two stories is that they so plainly present ways to handle life’s challenges. Even though most people hate to admit it everyone messes up sometimes, it is just a matter of how we deal with it. We can let life knife us in the back and make us miserable, or we can take it by the horns and make it do what we want. As we go through life people are bound to say, “No, this can not be done.” Just say, “Anything can be done if I put my mind to it. Then go out and try.” The absolute worst that can happen is that you will not reach the height you wanted. The absolute best is that you can fly even higher, and reach new, previously unseen heights. Just remember, turn your lemons into pineapples, and if at first you don’t succeed try, try again, and a few more agains.

Before I finish I would like to say thank you to all the people who have helped me on my way. For each person who saw the potential I had. For those who pushed me along, more often than not, kicking and screaming the whole way! Thanks, you have been a good help.

And to the graduating class of 1996, we are now only minutes away from finally graduating. It has been along road to get this far, but every moment has been worth it! In a few years we will be looking back with fondness on our high school years. Yet for now, it is time to move on to bigger and better things. I would like to wish everyone of you good luck in all your future endeavors!