I had the pleasure of delivering two graduation speeches this year to high school students embarking on the next stage of their lives. The theme of each was “lessons to live by,” and I used three quotes as the foundation for my remarks to recent grads.
I remember as a high school graduate how anxious I was to reach that next stage in my life. I am confident students today feel the same, and I am equally certain our state-elected officials share that attitude after finalizing this year’s legislative session. In fact, the contents of my speeches could probably apply just as much to Oklahoma’s politicians as they do to its high school graduates.
‘To whom much is given … ‘
The first, pulled from comic book fare, is the basis of what drives one character to keep fighting against tremendous odds and constant obstacles.
Ben Parker imparted upon his nephew that, “with great power comes great responsibility” (a comic book update to the Biblical lesson, “to whom much is given, much is required”). Those words go to the core of what keeps Spider-Man going even through the toughest of times. He has a responsibility to use his powers to better the world.
When it comes to new graduates, they now have the responsibility to be an active part of society as adults, which includes paying their taxes and voting at the the polls. This effort will make their neighborhoods, their communities, their state and their nation better.
Our legislators have a similar power when they vote at the Capitol. All should remember that they have responsibilities to their district and state to deliver improvements with every “yes” or “no” vote. Oklahomans have chosen to empower their lawmakers; they have every right to hold them to the highest standards for their service.
‘Be the change … ‘
The second quote, paraphrased from Gandhi, is that you should “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Each person has an obligation to deliver positive change and stand up for what her or she believes is right. We have far too many who use this same motivation to deliver hatred, bigotry and a multitude of wrongdoings. I tasked each of the graduates to whom I spoke to go forth and help improve their surroundings by joining a civic organization that does charitable work. I also called upon them to stand up to injustice and work to better the lives of kids through volunteerism.
Similarly, state representatives and senators can have tremendous influence on their communities by encouraging people to do good things. What they do in their time away from the Capitol has as much an impact on our state as the votes they cast.
Best yet to come
The final quote, an original from me, encourages the students to “not let graduation be their greatest accomplishment, but instead make it their latest.” Do not be satisfied with meeting that goal and coasting the rest of your life. Set your ambitions to meet a great goal, then have that next step in which you want to achieve success.
Likewise, legislators should remain hungry to accomplish good even after a law is made. They should keep working to improve our state, and I hope they understand the need to create long-term budget stability to avoid future shortfalls. Several groups have provided ideas, so I am optimistic that policymakers will take those considerations and establish better systems over their interim.
I hope the words I chose made a difference for those graduates going forth into the world, as I hope the words printed here will in some way help others to do great things. I especially hope our policymakers will help deliver better for the children of Oklahoma. We all have that responsibility to encourage them to do more for the change we want to see in Oklahoma.