REMARKS OF MAYOR SCOTT W. LANG
New Bedford High School Commencement Speech
June 14, 2007
Thank you, Meghan Leal, for the National Anthem.
Before I begin my commencement address, I want to acknowledge Superintendent Mike Longo, Headmaster Donald Vasconcelles, the teachers and staff at the high school, all of the members of the School Committee, and my congratulations to School Committee member Mark Treadup and his family on another New Bedford High School graduate, and the entire dedicated staff of the New Bedford Public Schools for all of their fine work. I want to pay a special tribute to the volunteers, parents, relatives and friends, who have made this school year an outstanding experience for everyone.
Good evening, New Bedford High School Graduates of the Class of 2007, their families and friends. I know that all of you—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians and friends, are reflecting upon the fact that just yesterday, your young man or woman was beginning his or her high school career. It seems like just last week they were attending their very first day of school, and just reflecting back in time, it seems like the blink of an eye, they were coming home from the hospital as a newborn.
I know watching your graduate march before you; there is a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. Both physical reactions are evidence of your pure pride—pride in a child you stayed up with all night when they were sick, a child you have stood by every minute, and with your heart and soul, have sung happy birthday to countless times.
It has been both a challenge and a joy to raise your child, and today is a very special day that marks their entry into the adult world. A high school diploma will give each of these excited, exuberant young people an opportunity to be the best person they can be. For those of you who have not attained your diploma at this time, the school system will continue to work with you until you receive your diploma and this opportunity as well.
I don’t remember who spoke at my high school graduation, and I don’t remember what they said. I recall that the day was bright and sunny, and I only remember that my father was at the field. Tonight, June 14, 2007, I want to attempt to give you the high school commencement speech that I wish I had heard, or at least that I would have remembered.
A Job Well Done
Congratulations on successfully completing your high school career. You have all worked very hard and stand before us today on the brink of your next journey in life. But let’s realize that the real work begins now. You have great lives to develop. A simple life’s plan with realistic goals will allow you to achieve your full potential. IT’S ALL UP TO YOU.
Higher education, skilled trade schools, or apprenticeships will prepare you for careers which will give you job satisfaction and provide the income to support you and your families. The short time from high school graduation until you establish a career and a consistent social network, and perhaps a family, is extremely important in laying a foundation for future success in your personal life. Your lives will be defined by the good choices you make each day. That’s why carefully thinking about what you believe in, and establishing a moral compass is crucial in these up-coming years.
This may sound like a cliché, but this is important to remember…every morning, get up, look in the mirror and take a few seconds to make a daily appraisal of your life. You will be the only one responsible for your day-to-day actions or your success. Each day you can make significant choices that will ensure your success, then, and in the future. IT’S ALL UP TO YOU.
First and foremost, always be aware of your personal safety. Never compromise on this. Reckless or careless behavior leads to harmful results.
Second, you will find very quickly that your aptitude and perseverance, combined with your knowledge and skills will determine your career path. Hone all, so that you will have great and interesting career choices.
Third, take time to build personal relationships, which will lead to strong friendships and lasting family structures. No one I have ever met is happy in life unless they are satisfied with their job or career. But more importantly, no one is happy in their life unless they have significant relationships with people they love and who love them. This may include family, friends, mentors, and advisors.
Personal Responsibility – Strive to be the best– Have Pride, Give Respect
Be the best
It is easy to ask each of you to become the best person that you can, to put your best effort into everything you do. But let’s examine this concept for a moment. Doing your best means performing to the highest possible degree of competence. It means never having to question whether you put maximum effort into anything you attempt. If you are able to hold yourself to this standard, you will never have any regret in life. It will not matter whether you finish first or last; it will not matter whether you earn the bonus or not; it will not matter whether you finish with a 4.0 grade point average or a 2.5 grade point average. What will matter is that you will have the realization that you performed to the highest degree of your ability. Everyone who comes into contact with you will realize this, will value this, and will be inspired by your example.
Consistently performing to the best of your ability will promote an enormous sense of pride in everything you do.
Again, let’s examine what the concept of “pride” is in the course of your day-to-day life.
Pride is a feeling of immense satisfaction arising from an association, or acts or deeds that you perform, towards a good or laudable goal. When you perform at your best and develop a keen sense of pride in your worth as an individual, you will receive the respect of all who come into contact with you.
Respect is a word that is used constantly, but what is the concept of respect? It is being admired by your peers and held in high esteem by all. It is to be honored in a manner that illustrates that you have committed yourself to being the absolute best person that you can be. In order to receive respect however, you must also understand the concept of giving respect. This concept means always according anyone you come into contact with the proper courtesy and acceptance that you wish to receive as well.
We are all connected
There is no doubt that our City is one big family. We are all inter-connected in some fashion. We each rely on one another for everything from friendships to services in our society. We must all acknowledge each person’s value to our social fabric and respect one another.
True respect means communicating, listening and extending a hand in the spirit of goodwill and friendship.
Striving for the best, personal pride and fostering respect person-by-person should define your legacy to our City. IT IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU. Don’t look at the person on each side of you, in front or in back of you to do your part. YOUR SUCCESS IS SIMPLY UP TO YOU.
There are many issues that affect each of us from afar, but there are many local issues that would allow you to begin to frame resolutions to problems, and have an immediate positive impact. You must first become familiar with issues that will affect you and then develop a constant focus and plan for solutions to our difficult problems.
There are community issues that affect our daily lives, issues that pertain to jobs, housing, education, human relations, and basic quality of life issues.
There are personal choice issues regarding your conduct, your pledge to a non-violent life, your personal health, your education, your relationships, and your career path that will affect each of you and, because of our inter-related society, will affect each other.
You must aim your energy and intellect towards becoming an informed, engaged, active citizen. New Bedford is relying on you to establish our City as a progressive urban model of collective and democratic citizen engagement in the 21st century.
It’s fitting that today, your graduation day, is also Flag Day. For the past 13 years, each one of you has seen the American flag outside your schools, at assemblies and in your classrooms. It is very easy to forget that the flag is present in most important settings in our community. In fact, the flag presides and waves over this graduation ceremony today. In the coming years as you think back on your graduation, I ask that you reflect upon what the flag means to our City and our country, and most-importantly, to each of you.
Countless numbers of men and women from this high school have either risked their lives or given their lives for you in the name of liberty and freedom. In the class of 2007, there are young men and women who have committed to join the armed forces to protect our democracy. Please remember them and their families in your prayers each day. In the coming years, New Bedford will be called upon to sacrifice even more.
Whether you join the armed forces or seek a career in public service, or simply volunteer at the community level, your generation will be asked to contribute to the well-being of our City and country. It is very important that each of you make a commitment to be involved in civic activities. No longer is it acceptable to sit on the sidelines and watch as the world goes by. You must identify the challenges and provide the solutions—not for the generations preceding yours, but for yourselves and for future generations.
I have no doubt that you will take full advantage of the opportunity you have earned as a high school graduate and begin to meet the responsibilities of an engaged educated citizen.
As I said last year, and I will say again this year, as the Mayor of this City, I have the following proposal for this graduating class–go have your life experiences, continue your education or career training, or serve your country, and then come back home and help build a great dynamic New Bedford. We will welcome you home with open arms.
God bless each of you and your families, and congratulations again on your academic success.