Mrs. Everitt's Commencement Address to the Class of 2018
Jun 12, 2018
Mr. Mahdi Kansou, Mr. Stephan Michaud, faculty, parents, friends and graduates of 2018.
I am honored to be the commencement speaker today. While I wondered what I would talk about, I’m sure that my students would tell you that I usually have plenty to say. I am happy to offer these few “words of wisdom” from my “advanced years” of personal experience, the 30 years I’ve spent working with students in the classroom, and especially our work together on the stage.
William Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage and the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” Seniors, you are the cast of characters that will influence the next generation. You will make many exits and entrances: from high school to college, from college to the workplace, from relationships to marriage and parenthood, from young age to middle age, and, if you’re fortunate, to old age. The world will be your platform.
In an effort to help you play your part well, I would like to reflect on ten lessons that I shared with my one biological daughter and with thousands of my ISM children. (No wonder I’m so tired). This address is titled “Lessons Learned from the Stage, the Classroom, the Halls, my Parents, my Family, my Friends, my Colleagues, my Hairdresser, my Assistant, our School Nurse, and Anyone I have Ever Encountered in My Life.”
Or, “Life Lessons, by Mrs. E”.
Lesson #1: Life is a Series of Choices
From the time you wake up in the morning until you to go to bed at night, your day is filled with choices. You are not a victim of your circumstances -- you are in charge. You can choose how you act and react; you can choose to love and respect yourself. You can choose not to blame others (did you know you give away your power when you do?). Make the choice to surround yourself with supportive, caring friends. Choose to be healthy, mentally and physically. Choose to do what is right for you. Have the courage to forge your own path.
Fear nothing! You can always make the choice to change directions, if the current path isn’t taking you where you want to go.
Lesson #2: Be Authentic
Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Guard against being pretentious, or haughty. When talking to others, be sincere – there’s no need to put up a front. There’s an acting book I love by Eric Morris entitled “No Acting Please”. Mr Morris states: don’t act - just be. Speak the truth from your gut. In coaching actors I have often said, “Nope, I don’t believe you; try it again.” People can tell when you are phony. Be your true self always.
Lesson #3: Stay in the Moment
You only have this moment. My dad used to say, “‘What if’ is a greased pole to nowhere”. Live neither in the past nor the future. You have no control over either one of these; be present and attentive now. Treat people well now. Be present even when the moment is unpleasant.
In theater, staying “in the moment” means actively listening to whoever is talking to you, and then responding on topic. Listen and understand what someone means before responding. “Keep evolving”, as the lyrics of the Beatle’s song advise. Life is a “long and winding road”.
Lesson #4: Be a Creative Problem Solver
A majority of your life will be spent solving problems, little ones and big ones. Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer”. Keep at it; you can figure it out. Einstein also said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. Be a savvy and creative thinker. Think in the box, out of the box, and around the box -- until you find a solution. And when someone tells you no, that’s just the beginning, not your final answer. Find another approach. Your innovative thinking may create something that is far better than your first idea.
Lesson #5: Be Resourceful
Being resourceful is the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. “Be resourceful” is some of the best advice I was ever given. Figure things out on your own. See things that need to be done and do them without being asked. Being a person who does “just enough to get by” is not enough; think through the next steps, and offer additional help.
Do what you can with what you have, where you are. Your professors, your employers, and the people around you will appreciate your initiative.
Lesson #6: Develop Your Character
Actors develop the character they are playing by analyzing what motivates people to do the things they do, what we call their “intent”. Be a person with good intentions. Be truthful, be ethical; do the right thing at all times, even when no one is watching. Hold yourself to a high moral standard. Be able to take constructive criticism without getting defensive. Care for those that are hurting and in need. Say “yes” to new adventures and opportunities. Be positive – people will want to be around you. Recognize and appreciate your strengths, and work constantly on your weaknesses. Give sincere compliments, and learn to graciously accept compliments that come your way. Allow others to bless you with their kindness. Mark Twain said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” You never know how a simple comment can turn someone’s day around!
Lesson #7: Work Hard and Persevere
Most success in life is achieved by just showing up. Be All-In! Work to achieve your own “excellence”. Comparing yourself to others is counterproductive. Procrastination is not your friend. Keep up, so that you won’t feel overwhelmed. I have had a reoccurring dream where I am standing in the wings, ready to go on stage, when I realize I haven’t gone to one rehearsal! The best cure for anxiety is to be completely prepared. Be reliable, conscientious, diligent and tenacious. There are countless stories of people who have persevered through great adversity before achieving their dream. It took Winston Churchill three years to pass the eighth grade, because he had a problem learning English. Later in life, when asked to give the commencement address at Oxford, he walked to the podium, put his cane and top hat down, and took his cigar out of his mouth. Then he said in a loud booming voice, “NEVER GIVE UP”. He waited a few more seconds and said again, “NEVER GIVE UP”. Then he collected his cane, hat, and cigar, and walked back to his seat. J K Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers. Luckily she submitted it again to a publisher that rejected her previously. The result is now a brand name worth 15 billion dollars. When you think you are defeated, try one more time.
Lesson #8: Be Kind to Yourself
This lesson is one I am working on. You don’t have to be PERFECT. In fact, perfectionism binds up your creativity, and the fear of being less than perfect may inhibit you from even trying. Many times in class I say, “Make a big mistake. I would rather hear you go for it and make a mistake, than not hear you at all.” Take a risk; give it your all, lay yourself on the line and remember at the same time to be gentle with yourself. Do what you can do well, and let the small stuff go. And no matter what challenges come your way, remember that you are important and worthwhile. Never let anyone tell you differently.
Lesson #9: Be an Inspiration
An actor inspires the audience: to laugh, to cry, to reflect, to burst into applause and jump up joyfully for a standing ovation. Inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. You all have this power to move and inspire the people around you. You can lift them from the ordinary to the extraordinary. There is a famous saying that goes like this: "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make others feel significant. Motivate them to reach their full potential. One ISM student at a time can inspire the world to be empathetic and compassionate toward all people.
Lesson #10: Live with Joy and Gratitude
Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is an attitude in your soul, in the core of your being. Joy is recognizing how precious life is and realizing how lucky you are to be part of it. In the play “Our Town” -- one of my personal favorites -- the female lead Emily Webb dies in childbirth. When she gets to heaven, she asks to go back and re-live one day. She chooses her 12th birthday. A few hours into the day she says this: “I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize all that was going on and we never noticed. Good-by world. Good-by Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking and Mama’s sunflowers. And food, and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.” Then she asks, “Do any human beings realize life while they live it? Every minute?” The stage manager responds, “No. … the saints and poets, maybe they do some.” Graduates, be like the saints and poets and relish every minute of this wonderful life. Count your blessings; be grateful for all that you have been given, for all you’ve achieved, for the many people you love and the many people who love you.
Senior class of 2018, you are the courageous, joyous, optimistic, curious, the brave (and maybe a little scared) players on the stage of life. The curtain closes on this Act and we applaud you. Now you step onto the next stage of your life. Embrace it and give it all you’ve got. Act II is going to be amazing!
I love you all.