While searching in my parents basement, I found the original speech that I gave during graduation in 1992:
Before I start my speech I would like everyone to give a big round of applause to all the parents who put up with 4 years of high school to get all these graduating seniors here.
What would you call a person who lost almost every major political election that he ran in? If he lived in today’s society, there would be one name for him – loser. But the loser that I am talking about is Abraham Lincoln. In his lifetime, he was defeated for Legislature, was defeated for nomination to Congress, was rejected for Land Officer, was defeated for nomination for Vice-President, and finally was defeated for the Senate. Then, in 1860, he was elected to the presidency of the United States. But how could such a failure become President of the United States? Easily! He had the one quality that is the prerequisite for success – persistence.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines the word persist as to refuse to give up, especially when faced with opposition and difficulty. From these few failures of the many Lincoln endured, it is obvious that he had the persistence to overcome whatever opposition and difficulty came his way. He never gave in. He never quit. He went on to give his much acclaimed Gettysburg Address, and became known as the Great Emancipator for his Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves. This legendary American figure truly embodies the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again”.
If I could give every graduating senior one thing before we all went our separate ways, it would be the abstract quality that made Lincoln a success in the midst of such failure – persistence. With persistence, I confidently feel that every graduating senior will be a great success. And by success, I don’t mean achieving monetary gain or prestigious positions. Success, just as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Only you can tell if you have worked your hardest and have tried your best to become a success. Everyone’s abilities are not the same. If you work up to your ability and reach your potential, then you are truly a success. Remember, life is not easy and you will experience many failures, but never give in and always remember the meaning of the word persistence.
Here we are, it’s time to graduate, but I bet every senior here would not hesitate if given the chance to go back and make the same mistakes and encounter the same failures. Sometimes the road taken and the obstacles encountered while trying to fulfill your goals are more memorable and exciting than when you actually reach your dreams. Booker T. Washington best stated this truth when he said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position we reach in life, as by the obstacles we have overcome while trying to succeed”.
Congratulations and good luck to all the seniors!