I may have mentioned that I was valedictorian of my high school class back in 1962. I had resolved in 1959 that I would make it when my old hero and crush Marvin only managed to be co-salutatorian. I have to attribute some of it to luck since after the year I was out of school, I fell in with a somewhat under-achieving class, but I did work and strive for that goal, too. I had to make a speech that graduation night and was very nervous because I was still terribly shy at the time. I made the actual speech high on pain pills due to a bad tooth extraction, but I did make a speech. My theme was "Dare to be Different." I always was; I suppose I always will be. But in that case, the difference I supported was in daring to reach and strive, to try to exceed the norm and the standards of others to be your personal best. I've always held that sentiment or at least since I was old enough to understand it.
Here is the text of that speech: (Secretary Bolin was at that time Secretary of State of Arizona and if memory serves later became governor. Mr West was the HS Superintendent.) At the right is the young woman who gave that speech. I can hardly believe she was me or I am she...a half century later.
"Secretary Bolin, Mr. West, members of the school board and faculty, parents and friends. Tonight it is my honor and duty to represent my class in saying goodbye to high school days and in thanking all of you who have done so much to help us that we might reach this night.
You are all interested in us, otherwise you would not be here tonight. Because of your interest, you have aided us in achieving this first major goal of our lives. You have done so much that we can never repay you completely. Tonight we thank all of you. In the future we hope to live our lives in such a way that you can be proud of us and know the effort you have spent on was is not wasted.
Graduation is a unique time. At what other time can you look both forward and backward, see childhood and adulthood at one glance? The terms "graduation" and "commencement" are contradictory. One applies a beginning and the other an ending. Out feelings tonight are contradictory also.
We are sad and happy, fearful and hopeful, humble and proud. Although we are sorry to be leaving behind the carefree days of youth, we are eagerly awaiting the future even though it may not always be bright.
When we ponder upon the significance of this ceremony and realize that it is now our turn to face life as adults, we feel humble for fear we may not be strong enough to carry this new burden. Still, we can't help feeling a bit of pride because we have finally reached an important goal in our lives. Because of this success, we are encouraged to believe that we may eventually reach goals which now seem as unattainable as our high school diplomas once did.
So we laugh a little, cry a little, and then square our shoulders and come to join you. Let us in, please, and forgive our mistakes for we will be only apprentice adults for awhile and we have yet a great deal to learn. Certainly we will remember this night for many years to come. Don't you remember your graduation? Whether you graduated in 1961 or 1912, you recall your special day and perhaps some feature of life at that time. Probably your reaction when you compare your graduation day to this one will be, "times have changed." Perhaps you think that schools are not strict enough nowadays.
I disagree with that idea but I do believe that a few aspects of young people's educations are being neglected. Of course schools are not responsible for all of the teaching. The parents' duty is extensive. Whether the schools, parents or the times are at fault, I cannot say, but I believe that today's young people are not learning enough old-fashioned pioneer spirit.
What is pioneer spirit? Why is it needed today? Pioneer spirit is difficult to define. it is a strange quality which nearly everyone possessed a few generations ago. Today it is a much more rare quality than wealth.
To me, pioneer spirit can be defined as a combination of independence, self-discipline and plain courage. You may say that such principles are out of date and out of place in our modern world.I cannot agree.
Today, pioneers, brave people who are willing to work beyond the call of duty and risk all to succeed are needed more than ever before. There are thousands of new frontiers waiting to be explored. The greatest frontiers ever open to mankind await pioneers who can conquer them. Certainly the vastness of outer space provides a great challenge to modern explorers.Also there are many discoveries to be made.in medicine and science.
I do not wish to imply that modern young people are lacking in good qualities. According to many experts and psychologists, they are superior to past generations in many ways, but they are strangely lacking in ambition and individualism. Although the lower level of intelligence and ability is rising, the top level is falling at a similar rate. Soon there will be neither superior nor inferior individuals, nor with there be replacements for today's experts and leaders.
No one can deny that most doctors, scientists, astronauts and even educators are exceptional people. Because not everyone is exceptional, superior individuals are different. They do not fit in well. Modern society is not sympathetic to people who don't fit in. Practically every aspect of life today seems to form obstacles for those who wish to rise above the masses. People who have pioneer spirit and exceptional abilities are discouraged by those who scorn them for being "different" and urge them to conform to conventional standards. Where will the future Albert Einsteins, Marie Curies, and Scott Carpenters come from?
Young people must dare to be different! Teachers, parents and other leaders must help them by removing some of the obstacles from their paths. Independence and resourcefulness must be rewarded ratter than rejected. Security, no doubt, is wonderful. Also there may be safety in hiding in the masses, but safety and security seldom coincide with fame and adventure, high achievement. Some of us must sacrifice safety and security for the thrills and rewards which will come to the pioneers of the future. Some of us must dare to be different!
Many years have passed since that night near the end of May, 1962 when I spoke those words but the beliefs I held then are essentially unchanged. I think this is why I am fascinated by excellence, daring and sacrifice, courage and determination wherever I see them. Setting example for the young people of today who will deal with a world more troubled, complex and needy than I ever dreamed is the most important role one can aspire to. So to the graduates of 2014, I can repeat the challenge: Dare to be different! Dare to excel!
Welcome to my World
Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!