On Friday, May 31, 2013, Ore City High School held its graduation ceremony for 43 seniors. Prior to the ceremony, Art teacher Rita Clawson presented each senior with a key, a small token that was a symbol of the the main subject of her graduation speech. No one knew she would be speaking at the graduation ceremony. It wasn’t in the program, and I didn’t even tell our superintendent who has been prompting me each year to get a speaker. After the salutatorian and the valedictorian gave their speeches, just prior to awarding the diplomas, I made the announcement that we had a surprise guest speaker …. Mrs. Clawson, the HS art teacher would be giving a speech. (She told me earlier in the day that she had been practicing and it would be right at five minutes. That was the stipulation … no more than five minutes. That time limit really wasn’t set in stone: I just told her that because I knew it would be really hot and I didn’t want to use too much more time because I didn’t want parents and grandparents griping at me after the ceremony was over. There’s always that one person who has something negative to say after graduation each year! In any case, she took the limit seriously as she prepared her speech.)
Here is the speech given to the Class of 2013 by Rita Clawson, Art teacher at Ore City High School . (You can follow fer on Twitter @RitaClawson, and follow her blog at awesomeclawson.wordpress.com)
I gave you a small token before you marched out here (and you all look so good in those gowns). This small token is a symbol of the main thing I’m going to be talking about tonight.
Keys, most of us have them. Some have more than others. Some keys just open stuff, lock things up, or just dangle from a cool little key chain waiting to be used. Everyone, at least knows what keys are and can acknowledge that they all have some type of purpose. Just like you — you have a purpose.
I know today that you are not totally sure what that purpose might be, but you are on your way — I guarantee that. Whether you like it or not, after tonight, you will be on a path — just as you have been on a path up until this point. Where this path takes you, no one REALLY knows.
Ohhh … I KNOW. Some of you KNOW exactly what you want to be, where you want to go, what kind of person you want to marry, and the list goes on. But keep in mind, we are not promised tomorrow and even though it’s HIGHLY important to look to your future, today is a gift that you should enjoy — NOW!
This very night is one of those moments that you may think is all about you, and to a certain extent it is, but really — it’s for your parents, grandparents, family members, etc. who are here right now thinking how proud they are of you. Those tears welling up in their eyes right now, because they can’t believe their baby is graduating … that is the main reason for tonight. Not just so you can be honored — although that is important — but so those people can see you being honored. (addressing the graduates … find those people in the crowd now and throw them a kiss or wave at them … appreciate them because they are so proud of you!)
Back to those keys … I’ve listed a few KEY points that you should never forget. It’s kind of my KEY list on how to live a happier life. You may be thinking “Why does this crazy art teacher think she can tell me how to live?” I understand your point, (you are like 17 or 18 and I know, you know everything. Your parents, I’m sure have heard that line) but let me just try to share these KEYS with you — and maybe you can take something out of this list that will assist you. Even if it’s one little point that helps you be a happier 2013 graduate, I will have done something positive tonight. And don’t forget, I’m older than you and I’ve done things in my life that have definitely not made me happy so I’m trying to give you a head start on the important KEYS that can only promote, support, and contribute to your future happiness.
- I know I’m not a perfectly happy person all the time (who can be), but I absolutely strive to be as happy as I can be and if you need some cheering up, I’ll be the first one to try. Everyone needs a cheerleader. You should be that for others in your life. This is KEY. Be a big bright shiny smiley face to those around you. You might get weird looks or even a few comments (believe me … it will happen), but that is what makes it even more worth it! If you can be hated for your smile or having a great attitude — I’m willing to take that chance to help others feel better about life. Be that someone for others in your life.
- Another KEY … Don’t judge others. This is so KEY. You truly don’t know where they’ve been or what they are going through. Don’t allow your quick-to-judge attitude or anything like that to get in the way of you being able to love others. Liking them might be hard to do sometimes and you are not going to like everyone you come in contact with. You already know that, but LOVE should never be a question. You don’t have to like everything about someone to have love for them. And I’m not talking about couple love, or give-me-sugars love … I’m talking about genuine love for humans. When you really truly figure that out … expect BRIGHTER, HAPPIER & SUNSHINIER SUNNY DAYS (even when it may be cloudy outside).
- It is KEY to always be thankful for the present and always look ahead. You can’t change the past so why dwell on it. This is KEY! Work daily on moving forward and away from things that get you down and that sometimes want to creep back up from the past. Don’t let it. Look ahead to the things that you CAN DO instead of anything you didn’t already do. Leave the past in the past.
- A KEY that you have probably heard me say before if you were in one of my classes or just in my classroom for a bit, and if you didn’t hear it, you could read it — it’s written on the wall right behind my desk: IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK AT IT. This saying has been a motto, slogan, mantra of mine for many years, which basically means that any situation, no matter how bad it may be, can be looked at in a different way. There is always something good going on. Sometimes you just gotta find it and sometimes you have to dig really deep to find it! Keep looking — because it truly is all about how you look at it.
- The last KEY I’m going to share with you tonight, to me, is the most important … Don’t hold grudges no matter what. Grudges are heavy. All they do is slow you down. Without those ugly, nasty, heavy things, you will feel lighter and more able to travel through this life with ease. Who doesn’t want a smooth path to travel? Grudges make your way full of potholes and obstacles. They cloud your mind and make your outlook dark. WITHOUT them you will have more time to do the fun things you want to do because you aren’t wasting time thinking about some stupid grudge. There’s nobody in this world worth holding a grudge against. It doesn’t hurt them by you holding it, because most of the time they do not care. There’s a quote that says: Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Get it? DO NOT waste your time on that. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!
Tonight, it’s important you treasure this moment you have with each other. You hold the KEY to so many things, but most importantly you hold the KEY to your own happiness!
I hope that some of these KEYS I talked about tonight help you open that door.
Again, I promise you, from an ole, crazy art teacher … IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK AT IT!!
As she concluded her speech, I looked around at the graduates sitting in front of me and I could see a few wiping tears from their eyes. And at the end of the graduation ceremony, I heard the photographer tell some one that this speech made her cry.
Obviously this speech touched some of the ones in attendance. Maybe these graduates will take at least one thing from Mrs. Clawson’s speech. And hopefully someone in attendance will take something from it as well.