A friend of mine (let’s just call him Baldy) works at a school (Liberty Bell High School, sounds nice) in a small town (say, Winthrop) in Washington state. It is an amazing community and he had the honor of speaking to the high school’s graduating class of 2013.
I was lucky enough to:
A. be there to hear him warm up the night before
B. attend the event
C. get him to send me his transcript- that he claims is “not edited for publication”, so I took a few liberties in order to share his wisdom with you. (hope he doesn’t mind)
As I sat on the worn bleachers, he took to the podium. The positive energy in the room could be felt as the audience grew excited about the next speech to be presented from their Dean of Students would be filled with laughter and contemplation. They knew something was coming.
“Members of the board, Dr. Wenzel, Principal Dekalb, Staff, Community Members, Friends, Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, And the class of 2013……….
Woah, that’s a long list…… basically, everyone in this place.
I am humbled and honored to speak to you all on this special evening.
A month or so ago when I was asked to speak at Graduation……….. it must have been an interesting day, a day that must have been, well, like any day and everyday in a high school. My initial, response was, “You know what they need to hear? They need to hear about manners!” I figured I could wax poetic about this generations need to develop better manners….. a finger wagging lecture if you will. Very quickly I realized that was a really bad idea; that a high-browed, entitled lesson in etiquette and manners would be as well received as detention, or the dreaded, NC…….. which of course stands for “Not Cool” or “No Comprende”
After dismissing the notion of a lecture, my mind wandered a bit, as it is known to do, and I had the a-ha moment, not “manners” but “manner”……. You know, the way which one does something, or how they exist in this world. YES, talking about the manner in which these individuals, this graduating class walk through this life. THAT would be a much nicer fit, and better received, as well.
So being true to my manner, I chose to speak about both. So here goes:
Maybe it is merely my age, becoming older. There are those of us, that remember rotary phones. We are often heard saying, “Kids these days, they have no respect, no manners! I was so much more polite at that age.” Or, maybe, our fast paced, wired, digital, and instantly gratified society, has not focused as much on what are considered traditional “manners”, the “pleases” “thank-yous” and “you’re welcomes”, or what about a smile or kind word? We all know that manners are taught in kindergarten and hopefully at home, but somehow in the craziness of this life, we stray, even as adults, from always practicing them; we need to be reminded. In all actuality, “manners” are not really about the words, the “pleases” and “thank-yous”, “manners” are about the feeling, the grace, the engagement they require and convey. How do you feel when you really, really, want something? You are pleading, you say “please”, to someone, something, or some power. How do you feel when you have be given an award or the best compliment in your whole life? You say, “thank you”. Or how does it feel when you, as coach Wooden would say, “have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you”? You say “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure”. You feel excitement, you feel grateful, and you feel compassion. Any way you cut it, you feel.
The Bottom Line: This is Powerful Stuff!!
Class of 2013, you now will enter a new realm where the pleases are for a job, a degree or “marry me”. Or maybe you’ve been given a promotion, a scholarship, or a healthy child. Or maybe you volunteer at the food bank, tutor someone, raise a family. The feelings that are associated with manners cannot be underestimated. Remember, the feelings that accompany gestures of respect and kindness are contagious, they make everyone involved feel valued- again, I repeat, these feelings are contagious and make us all feel energized, wholesome and loved. So, in reality, this is not a lecture, it is a hint, free advice if you will. Use manners, the “pleases”, “thank-yous” and “you’re welcomes”, daily and often- they not only spread good vibes, gratitude, and joy, they help engage and connect you with other human beings in a real and meaningful way. They will take you farther, and will make you feel more alive than you know.
Then, there is a smile, or a kind word, these too are manners, but really they are in the estuary of “manners” and “manner”. Bobby McFerrin of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” fame, once said, “We keep looking at the big social and political problems, but when you are walking down the street and someone simply smiles at you- what a tremendous difference that makes.“ That smile that compliment, can make someone’s day it can even change or save a life.
Just think about how it feels to send or receive a genuine smile.
See what I mean?
We all have our “manner” of being, the way we exist, that unique, personal, dance with reality. Let me give you some insight into the “manner” of the Class of 2013: Some have a special manner in which they are perpetually, chronically, tardy for school, or the manner in which park their cars in the parking lot, the manner in which they go sledding on a school day, the manner in which some dance, which up until tonight, has been completely unacceptable. You know who you are.
Then there’s the manner in which one show’s their patriotism during lunch, the manner in which they show school spirit at homecoming, the manner in which one immediately rips the sleeves off any t-shirt he possesses or comes into his possession. The manner one grapples on the mat, throws a baseball, hits a forehand winner, or skis the course. The manner in which they discuss, debate, and even listen.
Yes parents, I hear you-“they listen”?
But then again there is the manner in which they hone their intellect by challenging themselves, the manner in which one devours books, the paper kind, on a weekly basis. The manner were one works a job and goes to school. The manner in which one performs, on the stage or in a concert. The manner in which one composes music, or freestyles a rhyme. The manner in which one creates art. The manner in which one will give the shirt off their back.
Now, in the bigger picture, a more holistic sense, there is the manner of this cohort, this group. The manner in which the Wrestlers won a State Championship & girls soccer, cross country, boys hoops, Speech and Debate, Knowledge Bowl, Track, Tennis, Softball, and Baseball dominated their leagues and made state appearances, these teams were led by the manner of this group. The incredible amount of scholarships earned, The 4 years of “School of Distinction” awards, The countless hours of community service. The manner in which this group came together in this last year, supported each other, enjoyed each other, and reached a zenith on the senior trip.
Oh, yeah, And then there was the manner in which the water tower turned pink. I have chosen to honor that move by wearing the temporary school colors <picks up pink tie to show the love>
Individual Manner, Cohort Manner, all very solid, genuine, and of the highest quality (of course , except for the dirty dancing… that manner is poor form)
Where did all this fabulous manner come from? It grew out of the fertile soil that is this community and everyone in this gymnasium. When your parents or relatives raised you here, or brought you here to this place, you already had intrinsic qualities, traits, quirks, and of course, sweet dancing skills. But you were also nurtured, shaped, taught, coached and generally affected by the people in this special place, we call “the valley”. Now the valley is obviously a unique and wonderful spot on the globe. We are surrounded by the beauty and mystery of nature, almost everyone is a neighbor or acts like one, it’s rural flavor is sprinkled with aspects of culture and sophistication. It truly is an amazing place to play, live, or just be. But what makes this place extraordinary is the people, and the community we have created here. It is these people, here, that helped make you, who you are today. Take a moment. Look around you. And acknowledge in your mind, your parents, family, teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors, friends, and for some of you the police. It is these people , that now, on this special night, are honoring you, and saying, “you are ready”. Ready to go out into the big bad world and be ambassadors of this place, of these people. You, Class of 2013 are a referendum, a reflection of US. Having this stamp of approval, from these people, is quite a honor, and with it comes responsibility; responsibility of which all of you are worthy. So, as you go out, remember to be true to yourself, and to your manner, which germinated, grew, and bloomed here in the valley.
So with your manner in place, even with it’s imperfections, as it is not fully developed, for we are always learning a growing. I urge you remember & reflect on where you are from; Then remember your manners, Plead for things that are really important and strive for things we think impossible; remember to say “please”. Be thankful and recognize your achievements, talents, and loved-ones; remember to say “thank you”. Continue to give of your time, yourselves, and be compassionate; remember to say’ “you’re welcome”
Tonight, I want you all to share a smile or a hug with the people in this space that have helped you to this point, thank them, and I bet they will smile and respond with “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” and the contagious good vibes and wonderful feelings will overflow.
Again, I would like to thank you, the class of 2013, for asking me to share my thoughts, even if they are a bit random, but, as you all know, that tends to be my manner. I truly hope you have learned as much from from me, from us, as we have learned from you. Remember, there are no goodbyes between us, as you all will always be living in our hearts and minds.
Within the hour, I will be honored to be able to call you my friends. Even on Facebook!
Everybody enjoy the evening and the rest of this festive weekend.”
My friend has a great manner and I admire him immensely. I am sharing this because I believe that it is a valuable reminder to us all. Please, Thank You, You’re Welcome- seem so simple, but are often left out. Cheers.