Graduation Speeches: “Dream Big. Sweat Hard.”

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Albany, NY to see my niece graduate from high school. Congrats again, Aly! 

As with every graduation since the dawn of time, the agenda is pretty well set. The graduates walk in to a standing O, the principal welcomes everyone, then they rattle off three or four speeches, then the long walk of–in this case, 342–students to receive their diploma, then the wrap-up and exit. 

Most folks will dread the inevitable time spent listening to the speeches and watching the other–in this case, 341–students walk up for their diploma.

But graduation speeches can actually be quite inspiring. Underneath all of the quotes from famous people and cliches, there’s a fundamentally uplifting message being delivered. And when you think about it, in thousands of towns across the US over the past month, that same message was being delivered. And while many will forget that message, or come to realize it only through facing challenges and grabbing opportunities over time, one day they will all hopefully sit at a graduation and understand what that message means. 

What’s the message? It boils down to this: “Dream Big. Sweat Hard.”

That’s not exactly Mark Twain, I know. And by the way, based on what I heard of the speeches, I envision Twain sitting on his front porch all day, reeling off memorable quotes to a small bespectacled man scratching Twain’s words onto parchment. The graduates no doubt see the ceremony as the end of something momentous, and in truth it is. Graduating high school is a turnkey moment, and so the graduates may be forgiven if their focus tends toward the past, their last four years together, rather than on a future where many of them will only hear from each other through Facebook or Twitter. There’s quite a bit of fear involved in graduating high school, because there’s quite a bit unknown. 

And so listening to people stand up and sprout inspirational sayings is likely not the first thing on their minds. 

Yet there I was, listening and admiring the speeches. In fact, being inspired by them. Thirty years beyond high school at this point, and yet so much of what was meant to inspire the graduates was motivating me instead. 

When it comes to writing, I have worked a great deal on my craft. Ahvarra took me a long time to write, a long time to edit, a long time to receive and incorporate feedback. But my dream, even as far back as high school, was to be a published author. To fascinate and entertain people with characters and worlds that were born in my imagination. But the road to fulfilling a dream is full of challenges, potholes, twists and turns, dead ends and U-turns. 

But in the end, I always thought “Dream Big.” And what I heard last weekend, the “sweat hard” part, really hit home. Because making your dreams come true shouldn’t be easy. The best dreams are the most difficult to achieve, because the reward is the greater for having achieved them.