Senior Speech 2020
June 5, 2020
My first experience with the majority of the class of 2020 was when I was hired as the fourth-grade teacher at BCA. It was August of 2012. For a year I watched you all closely because the next year my son, Ethan, was going to join you. The thought that repeatedly went through my mind was whether or not you were the type of people I wanted influencing my son. It did not take me long to realize what an awesome group of young people you were and I couldn’t wait for my son to join you. Class of 2020, you stole my heart in 2012. As the years progressed, I grew to admire and love you even more. So much so that I followed you into high school. Last year I had the honor and privilege of being your teacher for the first time. What an amazing experience that was for me. I was finally going to connect with this group on a level I had desired since 2012. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed!
When your class offered me the opportunity to give the Keynote Speech at graduation, my first instinct was to say no. I wanted to say no, not just because it’s scary to be in front of a lot of people giving an important speech, but because my heart was breaking and has been since the beginning of the school year, because you are leaving and I wasn’t sure if I could send you off in a manner that is worthy of what you deserve. However, the absolute love and adoration I have for this class was stronger than my broken heart so I agreed to your request.
When I asked you all what kind of speech you were hoping for, you gave me a long list of requests such as don’t make it too long, don’t be preachy, make it personal and try to be funny. I’ve decided not to take any of your advice and I’m going to send you off in my fashion which is to leave you with a list of important lessons by which to live, to be successful and culture changers in this world.
Lesson 1. Always Seek God’s Wisdom
I have over and over told my students, and my own children to always seek God’s wisdom. In everything, and I truly mean everything, if you are seeking God’s wisdom, not just in the big decisions in life but also the little ones. You will never go wrong. James 1:5 states: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (James 1:5)
God has made a promise to give His wisdom for those who seek it. So seek His wisdom in all things. Be open to seeing it and hearing it. Whether it’s through His Word, or through other believers; pay attention and listen. Many times His wisdom will come through the adversities you will face in life.
Which leads me to Lesson 2. You receive strength and wisdom from adversity
To illustrate this lesson, I’m going to read you a story. The author is unknown, however, the wisdom of it is powerful. The story goes like this:
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.
FaithStep. The Butterfly’s Struggle, 1 Jan. 1970.
Don’t shy away from adversity. It is through the challenges in life where we gain our strength. The Lord will not give you more than you can handle. When you find yourself at a point where you feel you have no strength left to overcome your challenges, call on the Lord for His strength and wisdom and He will give you all that you need to persevere. On the other side, your wings will be strong and you will be ready to fly.
Lesson 3. Be a voice of hope
It’s easy in life to be the negative voice. It’s easy to make one feel like a fool and to laugh at other’s failures and mistakes. However, in Proverbs 31: 8-9. It tells us to be the voice for the voiceless and to speak up and judge fairly. As followers of Christ, it is your duty to be the voice of hope for those around you. Your words hold weight and power whether you believe it or not. Use that power to inspire, hold people accountable, and to bring hope to situations that seem hopeless.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (Pr 31:8-9)
Lesson 4. Stand against the bullies and sharks in this world.
You will most definitely encounter people who will try to cause harm to you or those around you. Whatever the intent of these people you will need to stand against them. Even if you feel you are alone in taking a stand, you will need to do it. It is never wrong to do the right thing. To do this and do it successfully you must put on the Armor of God. Ephesians tells us to “put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you will be able to stand your ground. Arm yourself with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, your feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace, take up the shield of faith, the helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit.” Being protected with this armor will give you the courage you need to face down the evil in this world.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (Eph 6:10-18)
Lesson 5. Don’t walk this world alone
God did not create us to walk this world alone. The separation we have been feeling during this pandemic has made it clear that we are meant to be in community; first and foremost with God, and second with other believers, so don’t walk this world alone. Find a quality friend who will walk through fire with you. A friend who will stand by you, but one who will also call you out on your wrongdoing. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states that “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (Ecc 4:9-12)
However, when you choose that person, choose wisely. 1 Corinthians 15:33 states “Do not be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals.”
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (1Cor 15:33)
You want that person who is going to journey this life with you to be one that seeks the truth, speaks the truth and acts on Truth.
Lesson 6. How you handle the little things in life is how you handle the big things in life.
Whether you are talking about completing a project or dealing with people, how you handle the little things will definitely be an insight into how you will handle the big things. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right. This was advice that was written in a 1746 letter from the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope, to his son. I repeat this advice to you today because you will never look back on something that you worked well on and say, “I wish I gave that my bare minimum.” If you’ve done a project right or worked at friendships and relationships and they fail or don’t come out the way you thought, at least you can say, “I did the best I could” and you won’t need to look back on
it with regret. So do the small things well, this builds your strength and endurance to do the big things well.
Lesson 7. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
It can be very scary to take a risk and put yourself out there. The fear and tears that come from taking a risk and failing are very real. However, there have been many people in life who have taken a risk and were told several times no. These people felt that it was their calling to persist and to persevere.
I was going to give a list of well known actors, singers, writers and athletes who had doors shut in their faces and were told they wouldn’t amount to anything. I was very pleased with my list until I realized that you probably wouldn’t recognize a lot of their names because they are from my era or older. I did however come up with one whom you know quite well; Michael Jordan.
In high school, he failed to make it on the varsity basketball team his sophomore year. He was told no, that he wasn’t good enough. Instead of going home, sulking and putting his basketball in a closet never to be used again. He practiced often and worked hard to become a better player. The following year he tried out again. He took the risk and was selected to be on the team. From high school he received a scholarship to the University of North Carolina and then moved on to play in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls. In retirement, Jordan has gone on to be a very successful businessman. One of Michael Jordan’s famous quotes is “ I’ve failed over and over and over again in life and that is why I succeed.”
Stibel, Jeff. “Michael Jordan: A Profile in Failure – CSQ: Magazine, Events, Community.” CSQ, 20 Apr. 2020.
There is a lot of wisdom that is gained from being told no or having a door shut in your face. Take the risk, even if it’s scary! God will equip you to handle the positive or negative outcomes.
Finally, Lesson 8. Use the gifts that God has given you.
It’s stated in Romans 12 that God has given each believer specific spiritual gifts. These gifts are given not for your benefit, they were given to you to benefit others and in turn to glorify the one who created you. You experience the fullness of God’s love when you use His gifts in accordance to His will. If you neglect His gifts, you will not be used to your fullest potential. It is very important that you use these gifts well, they were assigned to you by an awesome God, so use them well.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Kenneth L. Barker, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995. Print (Rom 12: 3-8)
I am so proud of each and every one of you. You are an eclectic group of students, yet you work so well together. It has been an honor and privilege to know you, teach you, and to serve alongside you.
About two weeks before we were scheduled to serve for missions week, I had a talk with the majority of the senior class. We discussed each one of the seniors in length focusing on the qualities we see in each one of you. This is what your class said:
Elisha, you are an intelligent, loyal, and honest friend. You have a servant’s heart and you are faithful. Your friends admire your patience, steadfastness in your faith, and your willingness to serve. You are one to always speak the truth and to lead others on to a Godly path.
Eliza, you are hardworking, easy-going, spontaneous, and adventurous. You have a compassionate heart, you are a loyal friend, humorous and insightful. Even though you have a quiet way about you, you are fearless and ready to do whatever it is God leads you to.
Michael, your classmates see you as a loveable, cheerful, calm, and a brilliant individual. They are so happy you joined their class. You became part of the BCA family instantly and we are all better off having known you.
Juliana, my girl with Moxie! You are seen as fierce, ambitious, and quickwitted. You lead, challenge, and encourage others. But more importantly, you are quick to serve, and you love God.
Jacqualine or should I say Jaqueen, Your class sees you as free-spirited, kind, and a lover of throwbacks. They said you have an infectious laugh and that you see the good in everyone. You don’t hesitate to help those in need, because your compassion and heart for others are overwhelming; you are indeed a nurturer.
Sarah, The first word that came out of your class to describe you was thespian, quickly followed by highly driven, successful, committed, caring and generous. You are a young lady that is not afraid to speak her mind and the Word of God is what gives you your boldness and what guides you in life.
Kaitlyn, Leigh, Pretty as can be. you are seen as a well-spoken, humble, honest, and loving friend. You are a leader, responsible, talented, and wise. It is obvious your love of God and your desire to please Him is what drives you in life.
Domenic, the immediate response for you was that you have a servant’s heart. Everything that was stated about you was connected to how you interact with those around you. You are seen as loyal, empathetic, compassionate, relatable, an amazing listener, and one that will give wise advice.
Isaac, your friends wanted you to know that you are more than a man that loves pizza. You have a talent for writing and you are creative. More importantly, they see you as a friend to all. Someone who is caring, generous, thoughtful, easy to talk to, and one who seeks God’s wisdom to live out his life.
Will, your class sees you as adventurous, smart, well-mannered, articulate, and influential. They love your easy-going personality, your positive outlook, and your humor. One of the qualities your friends admire about you is that you are well informed on all manners of topics and that you speak intelligently and confidently. They have always appreciated the kindness you have shown to them.
Travis, you are seen as a triple threat; you are intelligent, creative, and athletic. In addition, you are incredibly humble and a servant of God. Your friends consider you loyal, funny and trustworthy. And I know from personal experience that you are always willing to help out when the need arises.
Ethan, it is a blessing to see you through other’s eyes. Your class described you as outgoing, spontaneous, easy-going, and a loyal friend. Your leadership qualities are strong and you are driven, strong-willed, and articulate but more importantly, you love God and His word. You will listen without judgement but give wise Godly advice. Your faith is your compass, and it’s because of that, that you have a desire to serve.
Jiahao, your class sees you as extremely mature, hardworking, intelligent, and strong. You are kind, easy-going, and introspective as well as, caring, respectful, and responsible. There is no doubt in their minds that you will be successful in whatever you set your mind to.
Finally, Emmalynn, your class sees you as brilliant, incredibly talented, and successful in everything you set your mind to. Your brain is so amazing!!!! They said you are loyal, committed, passionate, and compassionate. God has given you so many gifts and it is clear with the way you live your life, that your desire is to glorify God in the way you use them.
Each one of you has wonderful qualities that God has given you. You are a generous, gifted, and talented class. You have been guided and loved throughout your life; first by your families and then by your teachers. It is time now to go out into this world to serve and be culture changers.
Lord, may you bless this group. Light their paths brightly so that they always choose to follow you. And I pray in all things they do, that they bring glory to you.
I love you guys, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you on this occasion. I know you are going to have a positive impact on this world!