This is the speech our daughter Cara (a.k.a. "Wild One") gave at her public high school graduation commencement ceremony in 2004. She had a rough couple years in school -- and this speech is a reflection of how she rose above the turmoil of the teen years.
When people make speeches on occasions like this – we look for inspiring words that we can remember and that might make a difference in our lives. Those words for me came from my aunt. It’s just one simple sentence: “You always have a choice and it always makes a difference”.
My aunt uses that phrase as a slogan for her own life. She teaches it to her children – she shares it with the kids at the summer camp she leads each year and she shared it with me.
“You always have a choice and it always makes a difference” – those were the words that helped me get through eighth grade – the most difficult year of my adolescence. I was making bad choices. I was depressed. I was losing hope. That year I almost lost myself. And then I remembered – “I always have a choice and it always makes a difference”
Those words meant that even though life wasn’t the way I wanted it to be – I wasn’t powerless. I always had a choice. And even though life didn’t always go the way I thought it should – I still had power… because my choices always made a difference.
All of us are faced with thousands of choices a day. Some of those choices seem small: what time To wake up, what clothes to wear, whether to smile and to say hi to someone passing on the street or just keep looking down. All small choices – but they all make a difference. Some of our choices we just know are huge, whether to go to college, go to work, or join the military. Whether to use drugs and how we use our sexuality. These are the kinds of decisions that frighten our parents because they know “we always have choices and they always make a difference.
Some of these choices we’ve already made – some of the consequences we’ve already faced.
There is no group of people facing more choices or the excitement of those choices than high school graduates. We are about to leave our homes and step out into a world of choice. How we make those choices will make a difference. What we choose to do, whether big or small all make a difference. Ultimately being 18 or graduating from high school doesn’t make one an adult. Being an adult – is all about the choices we will make.
Author Max Lucado wrote about the choices of a single day. I’ve stolen his thoughts and reshaped them to fit me – my life on this day. Let me share them with you…
In a few moments the day will arrive, soon I will be exposed to the day’s demands.
It is now that I must make a choice. And so I will choose.
I will choose love…
No occasion justifies hatred;
No injustice warrants bitterness.
I choose love.
I will choose joy… for it is mine to choose.
I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…
I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God.
I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity
I will choose peace… because I have the power.
I will live forgiven.
I will forgive so that I may live.
Cara Kjersti Dietzman
Century High School