Last night, I gave a high school commencement speech. I shared a lot of random advice and I made people laugh. I belong to the brevity and levity school of commencement speaking. I suffered through my high school and college ones. (I showed up late to the second) How many times do I have to listen to someone say, “Chase your dreams and find your place in this world” before I get to pass?
In my case, the answer was twice. When I received my Doctorate in Law I skipped the ceremony altogether. After my last exam, I gave the registrar my parent’s address and told them to send my diploma there. While my classmates were strutting across the stage I was two states away chilling on my parents couch.
Anyway, last night I made everybody laugh, then ended with a story about my dad. He was born in 1919. He worked in coal mines as a teenager to help support his mother and brothers because his dad was disabled. Everything about his circumstances said he had no business being successful. The two great advantages he had were his mind and his drive. He proved everybody wrong.
Pops was dying when I became a judge. We had to drive the car up on a sidewalk to get him in the building because he could only walk a few steps. This picture, me all in pink is the moment they gave me the robe. Seconds later, I looked over at pops and he was crying like he was two. I never saw him cry before. Never. Not once.
I told that story at the end of my speech last night then said, ‘Never miss an opportunity to make your parents proud. Not for them but for YOU. That memory still lives with me today and brings me such joy and satisfaction I can’t even explain.” I was in tears by the time I stopped talking and the audience was on it’s feet. Had I had an opportunity to do it over again I would have sucked up my boredom and gone to my Law School graduation for THEM. But that’s water under the bridge and I hope I made up for it later giving my dad that one extra high before he left this world.
Love you Daddy.