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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Dare to be Great

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

The speech these graduating high schoolers deserved

Recently, my wife and I sat through a high school graduation ceremony and we were both stunned by the uninspired speeches delivered by members of the school board, teacher of the year, student body president - essentially every person who spoke on that magnificent stage with hundreds of high schoolers and their families watching and listening.

There was one important ingredient missing from their words: a sense of human connection. There was nothing meaningfully said that changed the way we feel, live, work, play, or learn.

Instead, we heard about their accolades, their achievements, their successful climb to higher positions (in school and life), their happy relationships... and on and on... meaningless stuff about them.

Nothing compelling was said. No consideration for the one and only question the students wanted answered: "Why should I care?"

I looked at my wife with disbelief, ashamed by this missed opportunity to say something more meaningful to these bright and cheerful high school graduates. And she said to me, "Well, Michael, what would you have said?"

She made a good point. What would I have said? Unable to sleep that night, I penned the speech I would have delivered. It's actually a great exercise. What would you say to an arena full of graduating high schoolers?

The speech I would have given to the graduating class of 2023:

The world owes you nothing.

It’s not the world’s fault you want to be somebody. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the work you do, the sacrifices you make, the dreams you have, the art you create, the markets you conquer. The world doesn't care if you're a success or a failure. The world will keep spinning long after your triumphs and tragedies are forgotten.

But the reality is you are special. You matter. Your ideas matter. Your words matter. Your thoughts matter. Your art matters. Maybe not to the world... but to us they do.

All the things you say, do and think get their mojo from those brief encounters with inspiration. Consider inspiration to be your partner, your advocate. When inspiration comes knocking on your door be ready to move with it, or at least invite it in for a cup of coffee. It's trying to get your attention through dreams, serendipity, thrills and chills... any which way it can. So pay more attention.

Move in the direction of things that fascinate you. Create what you want to create. Do it because YOU want to do it. And stay with it.

You're here now. Soon you'll receive your high school diploma. But you've already earned a doctorate in living. You know things, things we will never know. You've experienced things none of us will ever experience quite like you.

Be Bold. Be Brave. Have Courage.

You can't begin to imagine what you're capable of creating. Yes, it may have been done before. But not by you! Once you put the power of your expression behind a thought or idea, it becomes yours.

Be brave enough to take a leap in the direction of your dreams. Leap-frog over all the people who said, "It can't be done! You're not smart enough! You're too young! Too old! Too little! Too tall! Too this or that!"

Follow your fascinations and trust your gut. Demand more from yourself than anyone else could possibly expect. Have the courage to bring forth your treasures - your work, your art, your music, your words, your passion. The world is spinning, clocks are ticking, and daylight is burning.

"You can't wait for inspiration.

You have to go after it with a club."

~ Jack London

We need you to reveal to us what you know and think, and the things you care about. Why? Because your work and ideas matter to us. You, your ideas, and your passion will enrich, inform, and inspire our lives. There's no time for thinking small. Dare to be great!

In summary:

The world owes you nothing.

You matter.

Pay more attention.

Do what makes you come alive.

Be Bold. Be Brave. Have Courage.

Show up like no one else.

There's no time for thinking small.

Don't wait for inspiration to find you. Chase it. Find it. Make it your companion.

Dare to be great!


Hello! I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident. I’m a teacher, freelance writer, and photographer. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. I value your attention, it means a lot to me and it helps others see the story. If you're interested in any photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email:

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May 26, 2023

Well written. Very inspiring, Mr. Chips.

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