2018 Commencement Address from Board of Education President Madeline Smith
Remember to Smile
Parents, Family, friends, faculty, staff, and most importantly, GRADUATES of the Pelham Memorial High School Class of 2018…..Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues on the Board of Education, I can tell you that we are soo happy to be here with you all today celebrating this terrific occasion.
As Mrs. Clark mentioned, your accomplishments are many and they are incredible. But there’s something else I’ve noticed about this class in particular. As a member of the Board of Education, I don’t necessarily have that much direct interaction with you. But whenever I’ve passed you in the hallway, or seen you at an athletic event, an honors society induction, marching or performing in the Memorial Day parade, performing in a band or orchestral concert, or a Sockin’ Buskin performance, or standing outside conducting exit polls during the election, at the Booster Club senior awards dinner, the Bridge Academy dinner, or the Olympics, you are so often smiling. Maybe that’s because I see you mostly at happy occasions, or because you’re basking in the fact that it’s your senior year. But that has always left me with a good feeling. And that got me thinking about what I would like to say today.
As you begin your next adventure, I would like to remind you to do three seemingly simple things, which clearly so many of you already know. If you remember to do them, I promise your lives will be greatly enriched.
The first is really very simple…..Remember to smile. Smile when you greet a family member in the morning or a roommate in your dorm. Smile at the person you pass on the street. Smile and say hello when you greet your college professor at the start of class. Smile and say hi when you pass a fellow student walking across campus. Smile when you greet your co-worker or your employer. It costs you nothing and it’s such a powerful tool. It is an opportunity to uplift the world, one small gesture at a time. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make. And it’s so easy to do – IF you remember to do it.
The second thing that I’d like you all to remember is that each and every one of you ALREADY has a job – and a very important one too. Each one of you is already an ambassador. That’s pretty cool. If you travel abroad, whether you realize it or not, you’re an ambassador for our country. People will meet you and based on their interactions with you, they will make a judgement about Americans. So go out of your way to be gracious, and kind, and generous and respectful. You represent your country.
You’re an ambassador for your community and for your high school. Colleges, employers, vocational schools – they form an impression of the kinds of people that come out of Pelham Memorial High school -- based on those that they meet. That’s just the way it works. I know they will say that students from Pelham work hard, they work well with others, they are good people.
But most importantly, you’re an ambassador for yourself. So make sure you always represent the true you – the caring you, the friendly you, the considerate you, and the loving you. Be the best ambassador that you can be. You are always on the job.
The third thing I hope you will remember to do, is to LISTEN. Oh boy, does that sound boring. That’s so obvious, right? But it’s not as easy to do as you might think. It’s an art. And I dare you to master it. The next time someone – anyone -- is talking to you, stop what you’re doing, put down your phone, look them in the eye, and listen. Don’t let your mind wander to what’s going on the following weekend, don’t reminisce about the stories from the Prom. Instead give them your full attention.
Absorb every word. That sends a message that you care about what they have to say. You value them. Anything else is dismissive. Even rude. When a friend is talking to you, check to make sure your mind isn’t racing ahead with how you’re going to respond. Stephen Covey (cuvey), author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
But what if they are expressing opinions that you disagree with? Why should you have to listen to that? While we may hear viewpoints that we don’t agree with, most people are coming from a good place. But we all view the world through different lenses based both on the shoes we have walked in as well as the sources that we get our information from. If we are honest, open, and reflective, we will be much better equipped to understand one another.
So Remember….Smile. Smile because you’re an Ambassador. And the best ambassadors are great listeners. The rest will take care of itself.
On behalf of the Board of Education, Congratulations to the Class of 2018. We are so proud of all of you. We wish you all journeys that are filled with continuous learning and much happiness along the way. Thank you.