KAYHI COMMENCEMENT SPEECH
Now I am going to show you one of the many ways to get up in the world. (pull stool out from inside the podium and get up on it). I was worried that the class would not be able to see me.
The last time I spoke at a Kayhi graduation was in 1966, 51 years ago. It was when I graduated from Kayhi, and I was the Class Selected Speaker. I am not sure why the class of 1966 selected me. It might have been because I was Kayhi Student Body President that year, or because I had been in Jeanie Sande’s debate club. More than likely it was because no one else volunteered to get up in front of everyone and try to sound half-way coherent.
Paula Sampson Ziegler spoke as the Class Valedictorian, and Mary Jo Turek spoke as the Salutatorian. Mrs. Wengert, our Senior English teacher was our speech advisor, and all three of them were mad at me, because I would not show them my speech ahead of time. They did not know that I could not show them, because I did not have one. I had to stay up late the night before graduation writing my speech.
Drawing extensively from a Newsweek Magazine feature article that I miraculously happened upon at the last minute, I explained how the Nation’s high school Class of 1966, because it was the largest in history at that time, was expected to have the greatest economic and social impact of any of the previous high school classes in the history of the United States. After giving lots of facts and figures to that effect courtesy of Newsweek, I then quoted Bob Dylan, this year’s Nobel Prize Winner for literature, from his song “The Times They Are a changing”. And for shock value I chose this verse:
“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land and don’t criticize, what you don’t understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly aging, so get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a changing.”
Indeed, change was happening all around us. My generation was experiencing the Beatles, the Viet Nam War, Anti-war protests, draft card burning, flag burning, people actually did move to Canada (to avoid the draft), women’s lib, bra burning, the pill, Free Love, psychedelic drugs, marijuana, LSD, Timothy Leary, Jimi Hendricks, Woodstock, Flower Power, anti-segregation protests, and the Civil Rights Movement, The Black Panthers, Mohamed Ali, man on the moon, and record economic growth and prosperity.
Computers were just being developed and were still driven by stacks of punch cards and hard wired mechanical relays. They did not have computer screens, but instead printed out reams of computer paper. I remember in1967 I worked at Riggs National Bank in Washington D.C. Its computer took up an entire floor of the building and had less computing power than today’s cell phones. Computer chips developed to reduce space and weight in space capsules eventually made it possible to create portable phones, digital cameras, flat screen televisions, and powerful computers that are small enough to carry in our pockets.
The development of the internet is turning industries upside down. E-commerce is replacing local brick and mortar retail stores, banks and insurance offices, cable television, travel agents, and on and on.
Amazon.com has suddenly captured a huge segment of retail business through their gigantic e-commerce website selling almost any retail item at low prices and offering free shipping. By making it fast and easy to buy with one click of a mouse or by voice command, Amazon already has over half of the internet retail business and a big share of retail business in general.
There is becoming a glut of empty retail space as more and more stores go out of business. Local property and sales tax revenues are shrinking as these local brick and mortar stores are disappearing. Our State, City and Borough are going to have to figure out how to deal with the resulting shrinking local property and sales tax revenue. Local businesses may or may not survive this E-commerce threat, which will probably have much more impact than Wal-Mart has had.
Well, it would seem that Bob Dylan was stating the obvious back in the 1960’s, but we had no idea that change would go from a relative trot to the warp speed of today. I think we are getting used to it now. We are conditioned to expect change in almost anything we do. We know that we will have to struggle and adjust constantly to keep up and survive. Having to struggle to make changes should no longer come as a surprise, but as an expectation. Life is a struggle and if you are no longer struggling it means you are probably dead.
So, what have I learned in the 51 years since graduating from Kayhi other than life as we know it is constantly changing? I have a few words of advice. And I know you all have just spent the last 12 years of your lives being lectured to and told what to do, so think of this as the last and final time at Kayhi that you will have to suffer through another old person telling you what to do. So please bear with me.
So here goes:
01. How you live your life is up to each of you. You should live with a positive attitude taking responsibility for the choices you make. My mother used to tell me that if I ever got in trouble with the police that she and my Dad were not going to bail me out. I would have to suffer the consequences of my own actions. You should set your own course, pursue ways to become educated and get ahead in the world. When things go wrong, learn from your mistakes, adjust and move on. Do not aimlessly float from one situation to another, or blame others when life’s setbacks occur. Take control of your life and own it.
02. Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy. You have to take responsibility for your own happiness. Others are not responsible for your happiness, and you are not responsible for the happiness of others. You cannot control what others do or feel. You can tell them what you think, give advice, encourage, but we all need to make our own decisions.
03. To be successful you should be able to effectively communicate. Listening is especially important and often not done well. It helps to repeat back in your own words what you think people are trying to tell you until they agree that you understand what they are saying. You may or may not concur with what is said, but you have accurately determined what they are trying to communicate. The person will feel that someone has listened to them and understands what they had to say. You will be amazed at how accurate listening helps in ironing out misunderstandings and disagreements.
04. Be observant, keep an open mind, gather all the facts and verify them before you make up your mind or take action. Ask yourself: “Is it the truth or just what I want to hear?” Work for the good of all and not just for your own benefit. The Rotary Club Four Way Test goes like this: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it Fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Great words to live by.
05. Dale Carnegie in his book How to Make Friends and Influence People, said that no one ever wins an argument. As soon as you start arguing the other side digs in and stops listening. It is more productive to find things to agree on and work together. After you have given your opinion, agree to disagree on the rest rather than to create ill feelings and waste your time and emotional energy arguing. So now, let’s all write letters explaining this to Congress…”Dear Republicans and Democrats, Please stop arguing, listen to each other and find common ground for the good of the country. Signed, The Kayhi Class of 2017.”
06. Do not get caught up in narrow political, economic, religious, or social ideologies. They are generally too simple and inflexible to be practical in the real world in real time. Pure forms of capitalism and socialism have never existed in any society, and never will. Instead, most countries employ a practical mix of these. Whether we want to admit it or not, the worst human rights violations, mass murders, wars, acts of terrorism, and so on are the result of using religion or ideologies as a means of obtaining or maintaining power. It seems like when ideologies or religions take over governments humanity loses.
07. What goes around comes around. You do not get ahead by putting or keeping others down. Mutual support, cooperation, and collaboration will get you further than cutthroat competition and unfair behavior. Treat everyone with respect. Prejudice is a terrible thing born out of ignorance and bigotry. The most successful people I know get along well with others by being respectful, caring, positive, and encouraging.
08. Life is too short to hold grudges or harbor resentment. Learn to forgive and let go. Do not waste your time complaining or worrying about things you have no control over. You cannot control others, but you can control what you do and say. Avoid those who are a problem for you. Do not be an enabler for other’s bad behavior. Do not force yourself on others.
09. Take care of your bodies. Even though we live in one of the most affluent countries of the world and spend many times more per capita on healthcare than any other country, we still have one of the least healthy populations. Our longevity rate is falling even though we have advanced healthcare services. Too many of us are overweight and obese, and most of us do not get enough exercise. Keep your weight down by balancing the amount of calories you consume with the amount of exercise you get. Find ways to burn off energy. Walking is an easy low impact way to do that. Smoking is one of the most serious causes of health problems, so do not smoke. Living a healthy lifestyle is a much better alternative than letting yourselves go and ending up in your 50’s and 60’s having strokes, heart attacks, trouble breathing, lungs removed, legs cut off, or going blind through your own negligence. So, start taking care of your bodies now before it is too late.
10. Your word is your bond, keep your promises or don’t make them. Do not lie, cheat, or steal. A poor reputation, like bad credit or criminal history will travel with you through life.
And Finally: And I promise I will not go on too much longer, so you can get out of here while you are still young.
Finally: As you leave Kayhi and go off into the big wide world always remember WHO YOU ARE and WHERE YOU ARE FROM. You are not just from some little Bridge to Nowhere town isolated on a remote island, but you are SOMEONE from SOMEWHERE, where we lift each other up, encourage each other, and lend help when it is needed. SOMEWHERE where we treat each other with respect as individual human beings rather than some stereotype. You are from SOMEWHERE that is environmentally beautiful, with clean air, pristine waters, lush forests, and abundant fish and wildlife. Where we do not have hurricanes and tornadoes. Where it does not get too hot or extremely cold, and we have plenty of water. You are SOMEONE from SOMEWHERE, where we honor, support and develop artists as well as our natural resources, tourist, healthcare, manufacturing and other industries. Where our elected officials do not need to resort to lies or negative campaigning in order to win elections. Where we do not fear the police or they us, where we do not have drive-by shootings, gangs, or fear of going out when it is dark. You are SOMEONE from SOMEWHERE where we expect businesses to be honest, fair, and to give us friendly Hometown customer service, where we celebrate our diversity and honor our enduring and progressive Native people as well as admire the courage and work ethic of our many immigrant neighbors.
Never forget that you are SOMEONE from a wonderful SOMEWHERE called KETCHIKAN.
Congratulations to the class of 2017! Good luck and have a great life!
BILL TATSUDA'S KAYHI COMMENCEMENT SPEECH MAY 28, 2017 - presented to a Ketchikan High School graduating class of over 140 students.
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