Here is the text of the speech I delivered at Bellevue College’s 2015 commencement. I’m posting it after one of my high school English teachers asked if she could read it. So, Ms. Apple, please remember that it was written to be a speech– to be listened to– rather than to be read…
Good evening! I am so honored to have this opportunity to say a few words to you tonight.
But, my gosh, preparing these words has not been easy… I have been over this and over this… Read and listened to scores of commencement speeches. Written half a dozen drafts of this speech. Gotten feedback from dozens of people. I’ve wanted my words to be perfect… But I’m settling for honest.
I’ve considered telling you my own story, of my personal philosophy of teaching, and how my main goal as a computer teacher is to empower people to use the computer as a tool to help communicate and connect with each other.
I’ve considered talking about my students, who teach me something new every single day. Who inspire me to continue to come to work every day, in the hopes of seeing the world thru their eyes, and thus expanding my own world.
I’ve considered talking about my love of Bellevue College; how it’s given me a place to feel at home, a safe place to reach out from, a place that surrounds me with brilliant, funny, and appreciative peers. I’ve considered telling you about how much respect I have for the role that Bellevue College plays in the larger community—how I’ve seen dozens of times how it helps people elevate themselves in new knowledge and skills, but most importantly in self-confidence.
I’ve considered voicing my concerns about a couple of the directions that the college is heading (specifically, the push towards university status and the push to move more and more classes online)—because, while these may be exciting directions to grow, we should not forget who we really are— the value of our buildings, which provide safe haven for people meet, face to face, a safe place to try new things and a safe place to make mistakes; we should not forget the value of our teachers who challenge students to explore themselves and the world around them more deeply; we should not forget the value of all our support staff, who help students meet basic needs so they have a solid foundation from which to reach for more.
I’ve considered emphasizing how, over the 50 years that BC has been around, it has learned the value of good teaching, the value of authentic connections between living, breathing human beings, and the value of community. I support progress and growth, but not at the expense of those who need us the most.
I wish I had something deep and profound to say. But I really don’t.
Because, I think that life is pretty simple, really: be kind to yourself and others. Do your best. Listen to your heart. Pursue things you’re interested in. Touch the ones you love. Be grateful to those who have helped you get to where you are right now. And pay it forward.
Because there is no such thing as “too much love.”