The Gift of Education


The Gift of Education: My Speech at My Mentee’s College Graduation, Camp Tillamook, February 7, 2013

It is an honor and privilege to be in this place of personal change, this place of education, and to honor D***.

I am one of D***’s mentors, his friend, and, sometimes, his rhythm guitar player. I stand here with pride and with admiration for a job well done.

We honor D*** for his determination, for his will power, and for his accomplishments. We honor his dedication to make something of himself, to make fundamental changes in his life, and to challenge himself to succeed.

He is the first among you to attain his Associates Degree. This is a remarkable and significant accomplishment.

D*** is the first to achieve this milestone here. But, he is only the first among many.

I look around this room, and I see all of you young men who will follow D***‘s lead, who will keep working hard, and learning. You will achieve your own college degrees.

We also come here today to honor all of you young men. You are all students, you are all learning, and applying yourselves. You are bettering yourselves, and preparing for your own bright and successful futures. You are becoming healthier, and stronger, men.

Today, we come here to honor the power and the gift of education.

Education is a gift each of us gives to ourselves. No one can ever take away that gift. Your ability to learn, to explore, to develop your minds, will always be yours. No one can steal your ability to learn new information, to think through problems, and to come up with brilliant and comprehensive solutions.

You are the problem solvers of our future. You are the future of this country, and we expect you to be successful in creating a bright future for you and your families, and for the generations who will come after you.

And, that is a sacred trust we place in you.

As we look around at the staff members in this room, we see that they are educated people. They have gone to college. They have made sacrifices and sweated over their hard work. And, they have bettered themselves.

They have developed their minds, and taken the time to grow and educate themselves. They bring their education and their strong minds to this place, to teach, and to help you succeed, to be complete and healthy men.

Every staff member has made a difference. Every one of them has changed you and they have changed the world.

Because of education, they are better husbands and wives, better fathers and mothers, better neighbors, and better human beings.

I ask you to look inside of yourselves and take inventory of who you are inside, and who you want to be. Think of the possibilities you have.

Each of us has the power to change our lives, to move ahead, and to be healthy, strong people.

The work that each one of you is doing here is the work of education. Education changes lives. Education frees each of us from the slavery of bad ideas, of helplessness, and despair. Education gives us hope.

You are changing lives here.

We need more than a belief in our heart that the world needs to change, and that we need to change. We need to be problem solvers, we need to be the engineers and architects of a new world. We need to be the song writers and poets who will bring more love and happiness to the world, and to each other.

All of that world depends on education.

D*** is the first of you to achieve a college degree. He has opened up the trail, and he is leading all of you by his example.

But, he is not the only one here who will go on and achieve great things in his life. He is not the only one who will master complex skills and challenging ideas, and become a solver of problems, a teacher, and a healer of his fellow man.

Every one of you has that capability.

The only limits that any of us have right now are the limits we impose on ourselves. Every one of you can achieve your dreams.

And, the key to those goals and those dreams is in your education.

This is the gift we celebrate tonight, the gift of education. It is as close to you as the books on your bookshelf, the discussions you have in class tomorrow, and the serious conversations you have around the dinner table tonight.

It all starts with you. Today. Right now.

Take that gift, and run with it.

The future is yours.

Thank you.

—Neal Lemery

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