This post was really a candidate that I wrote for the 2018 Commencement Speech for my high school. It wasn’t picked, so I decided to just publish it here because I thought it had a good message.
One thing in life that I think everybody strives for, to some extent, is to to be appreciated - to be recognized - and that’s definitely a not a bad thing. After all, who doesn’t want to be the next celebrity, professional sports player, artist, musician, or writer? The unfortunate reality is, that for most of us, the chances of being the next Paul McCartney or Michael Jordan are slim to none. However, what I’m here to tell all of you today is that those odds are irrelevant, because I’ve come to find another way to achieve recognition, success, and impact the world. And it all started here, at Pope John Paul II High School, the moment we all stepped on campus for the first time.
The road to success, recognition, and impact begins with simply “doing the best that you can do in everything that you do”. This idea first came into my head with the unfortunate passing of the legendary physics teacher and football coach, Mr. Gregory Weckel. Mr. Weckel was a man who showed up everyday and did the best in everything he did: physics, teaching, and coaching. In return, he expected and accepted nothing less than all his students and players to do the same. Mr. Weckel was more than happy to remind all of us that anything else was wasting our time.
When Mr. Weckel left us too soon to go onward and upward, the response of the PJP community was unprecedented. Murals were made in the parking lot and on the door of his room. Alumni, parents, students, friends, faculty all came together to express the grief associated with his loss. The football team showed up on buses to his funeral, which was filled with former students, coworkers, friends, and many members of the PJP community. Now, Mr. Weckel, to someone who didn’t know him personally, was just an ordinary high school physics teacher. But because he showed up everyday and did the best he could do in everything he could do, to those who knew him, he might as well have been Royersford’s own Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein. If he had just done the job for a paycheck and put the bare minimum in, this would not have been the case.
Now, friends, I tell you this story because each and every person sitting here today has the ability to be their own Mr. Weckel. Since the moment that we first walked into this building, onto that field in the back, or into a classroom here at Pope John Paul II High School, giving our all and doing the best that we could do was already an unspoken agreement. No administrator, teacher, or coach was going to settle for anything less. And while this certainly was not an easy thing to do, we are all sitting here today in these caps and gowns because we rose to that very challenge from the moment our first class started to that final bell to signal the end of the day. Because of our practice with always going forward doing our best, we have the ability to impact the world no matter where we end up.
See, maybe someday in the future might show up to your first day as a call center worker for Goldman Sachs, and you’ll probably be thinking: “Man, I wished I owned this place.” Maybe you’re interviewing for an internship at Microsoft and the only thought going through your head is “Why aren’t I Bill Gates?” And while I don’t think anybody would really have a problem if they suddenly woke up as Bill Gates, what I want you all to know is that it doesn’t matter. If you give your all, if you show up everyday and be the best person you can be, and do the best job that you can do, you will already be just as successful, not necessarily monetarily, but mentally and spiritually. Now, maybe you aren’t interested in having your career define you, or perhaps you end up somewhere you don’t like. That’s okay, because then you have to focus on being the best father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, grandparent, husband, wife, etc. that you could possibly be. See, there comes a time where each of us are going to have to leave this world, and the money isn’t what really defines your legacy at that point. It’s what you did, and more importantly, how you did what you did, that defines how successful you were and how you end up being remembered.
I wish you all the best in life and I know, together, we’ll do great things because of our time here. God Bless.
This speech is dedicated to my junior year AP Physics 1 & 2 teacher, Mr. Gregory Weckel, who passed away last summer unexpectedly. He was truly a special person.
Posted on 5/17/2018