Keynote Commencement Speech
I received a pleasant surprise when the Principal of Sci Academy High School in New Orleans, LA invited me to deliver the keynote address at their 2016 Commencement Ceremony. While the honor alone overwhelmed me, the bigger story brought me to a moment of reflection. See, I’m a New Orleans native and graduated from Marion Abramson High School, what this school was formally known as before Hurricane Katrina. While I graduated as Salutatorian of the class, I had a very rough start there…with a low point of a 1.7 GPA my first semester. With the help of the teachers, some counseling, and lots of stern talks from my parents, I eventually rose to the top. So, to be asked to come back here and speak to the graduating class of 2016 was humbling; it was full circle.
Surprisingly, writing my speech wasn’t difficult because these kids were me 17 years ago. So, I asked myself, “what would your current self tell your 18 year old self?”. I reflected on how terrified I was to go off to college and also later to go on to work for a Fortune 500 technology company, and how my race and public school education played a part in my fear. I wanted to let the students know not to fear and that they are indeed well equipped to face the world! Thus, the title of the speech is “You Are Prepared”.
Throughout the speech, not only did I assure them that they are prepared for whatever life has in store, but also gave them four keys to success:
- Find your passion
- Be true to who you are
- Give back
See the speech below. Excuse the shakiness and baby crying. Also, the first few lines of the speech were not recorded so let me give you that before you hit play. It starts with a poem I wrote…enjoy!
To the Graduating Class of 2016, I’ve come today to let you know that YOU ARE PREPARED!
You see, I once was you. Experienced the very same eagerness that you do.
I even sat in that very chair. I’ve come today to assure you that you are prepared.
Are you just a little worried about your plan? Wondering if you even stand a chance?
Are you trying your best not to be scared? Fear not, you are prepared.
As this chapter of your lives come to a close. And you wonder how much you really know.