Friday, May 12, 2006

Indiana Academy Graduation

I'll be speaking to the graduating class of 2006 at the Indiana Academy in Muncie, Indiana in about two weeks. As some of you know, this is my alma mater, so I'm very excited about (and flattered by) this opportunity.

The Academy (as students call it) is one of about a dozen public, residential schools for gifted kids nationwide. It's also a little different from most in that the word "Humanities" is in the full school name, and these fields are a crucial part of the curriculum. Almost all of the 150 or so graduating seniors will be going on to college after graduating.

I've been working on a speech, but of course I don't want to take myself too seriously or offer too much life advice when I've only been out of high school nine years myself. So here's a question for Gifted Exchange readers. What do you wish your high school graduation speaker would have said to you?

One possible theme. I just turned in Grindhopping, my next book, to McGraw-Hill today. One of the chapters deals with the idea that fairy godmothers are lazy people. You need a lot of luck to build a good life and a good career, or even to get everything out of college you can. But you can't leave too much up to chance. You have to know where you're going and be prepared to seize on chance opportunities that will help you get there as they arise.

Oh, and another one. Be sure to see the world outside Indiana. Too soon you wind up getting caught up in work and school and family and travel gets a bit more difficult.

Thoughts?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think I would have liked to hear some words on the nature of work - perhaps a more sophisticated version of what I told my 3 year old -
People work to
1) Make Money
2) Help People
3) use their special gifts
4) grow inside


I don't know how to put this politely, but there seems to be a "feeling" out there that Parenting can be delayed indefinitly for females. I think that this is not as universally true as it appears. Some people's highest and best calling IS parenting, and there's no college track for that. I'd encourage young women for whom hands on parenting is a big part of their future, to take financial/career responsibility for that. Example - when choosing a field, looking for women who have found a way to work from home for a time. Example - choosing a state university over a fancy private one, so that student loans don't interfere with socking away money for the "baby sabatical." I think that as a gifted kid I was way ahead of my peer in terms of life-cycle readiness, but that since I didn't know such a thing could exist, and had zero validation, I just assumed that those thoughts were mistakes. I'm not kidding - i used to read "Good Housekeeping's Annual Birth Control roundup," in waiting rooms whenever I could sneak it, years before I was in need of those products.
Good luck whatever you decide to say.

Carmen said...

1. Think long and hard about every loan you take out.

2. It's okay to change your mind about what you want.

3. It is equally okay not to know what you want, as long as you continue to search.

4. Learning never stops, so always pay attention.

Anonymous said...

My biggest wish for graduation speakers was that they would finish up and shut up. I have rarely heard one worth listening to for more than 4 minutes, and they always drone on and on.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura

Congratulations!

My HS speaker, the Reverend Beverage, was knocked unconcious by a cold beer bottle hurled from the audience (obviously inspired by his surname)so I do not have much experience with HS commencement speaches. Fortunately I do not know of any consumer product that rhymes with Vanderkam, plus the students you are speaking to are undoubtably
better behaved than the unruly cretins I received my diploma with.

Regarding college commencement speeches mine was from Jane Bryant Quin and I also heard my sisters (Ted Koppel). Ted's did not make much sense (he was much better in the TV format) but I thought JBQ had some worthwhile insights, the main one being that we would not find career or personal contentment until our 40's which for most of my class turned out to be true. Her reasoning was that during our 20's and 30's we would be discovering/developing our personal, professional, and relational identities. Therefore we should not despair if we felt we did not fit into our environment after school and that a struggle was not only neccessary but desirable to achieving contentment and making worthwhile contributions in life.

Unfortunately for a HS student I am not sure the JBQ theme would work since at that age I remember post college seeming infinitely far away much less my 40's (aka geezerdom) but maybe a telescoped version to cover the bridge between HS and college graduation would be interesting to include.

Best

jason

Laura Vanderkam said...

Hi Jason-
Wow, I hope I escape the fate of the Reverend Beveridge! I guess my beef with Quinn is that it is possible to achieve career and personal satisfaction long before 40. I'm sorry she apparently didn't, but there's a problem with then generalizing that to everyone else. You don't necessarily have to struggle to figure out where you fit in with the environment. You can create your own (the theme, incidentally, of "Grindhopping" my upcoming book, to get the plug in there). Indeed, I think gifted, out-of-the-box kids of the variety who went to the Indiana Academy are best suited for doing their own free agent style things. I always hated the "life's a journey, not a destination," quote people seem to throw around at graduation. Sure, you should enjoy the journey. But boy do you save a lot of angst if you don't rely on the serendipity of the universe to bring you good things (see the lazy fairy godmother line). Better to know where you're going and make a plan to get there, so you don't have to worry so much about what you're doing with your life. Then you can actually enjoy the journey.

Sharon R. Cole said...

Congratulations! In my opinion, encouraging the free-agent idea in your speech is a good one. I have to admit that I wish I developed this philosophy earlier on because it works wonders for the spirit. I was in my mid-20s when I resigned from (or as I like to say, escaped from) the confines of working for a major credit card corporation to pursue writing, and later I 'escaped' from a staff writing position to work on my own.
I was, however, plagued with self doubt mainly because no one in my usual environment could understand this idea of 'creating your own life, identity and universe.'
While I'm one of those Quinn folks who finally carved out a niche in this world later in life, I agree that students and recent grads should not try so hard to fit into worlds already constructed. We are, after all, as individual as our finger prints, DNA and so much more. It seems a waste to conform too much!

Stormia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stormia said...

We had to read this essay for my AP Comp class. Here is an excerpt:

Ultimately, it will be the students' own business to break the circles in which they are trapped. They are too young to be prisoners of their parents' dreams and their classmates' fears. They must be jolted into believing in themselves as unique men and women who have the power to shape their own future.

I say, read the whole essay, and then do what you can to jolt us. Tell us about your experiences and show us the exciting things we can do with our lives.