Roy Exum: ‘Raise The Bar Higher, OK?’

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Today I want you to pretend you are sitting in a gymnasium, dressed to the nines beneath your graduation gown at your high school commencement. It’s late morning, with a big lunch planned afterwards with your folks and grandparents, and it hasn’t yet dawned on you that you’ll not return to high school ever again.

You’re excited, pumped that you have achieved the diploma by the hardest with Algebra II being what it is, and you can feel the magic just before you’ll walk across the stage. On this particular day you are graduating from Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans and your classmates have already been accepted at LSU, Tulane, and other Southern schools. But that doesn’t matter either; all you want to do is toss that tassel.

Everybody is sitting in anticipation. It’s already clammy under the gown and … whoa! … what is this! The most gorgeous woman in the world steps from behind the curtain and seems to literally glide with a brimming smile towards the lectern. Nobody says a thing. They don’t have to. Instead there is wild pandemonium, shouts and a standing ovation like none before, because everybody present immediately recognized the “Pretty Woman,” actress Sandra Bullock.

More importantly, everybody in the gym knows that since Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed Warren Eason in 2005, Sandra has become the most beloved person in New Orleans since Archie Manning gave his all for the Saints. Her philanthropic spirit has shined the brightest at the charter school where she’s bought band uniforms, athletic equipment, computers and countless more. She has paid a king’s ransom, simply so the kids there could excel like no others.

So the seniors yelled the loudest at her appearance and, as the shock wore away that the award-winning actress would present this year’s Commencement Address, her presence just made the moment all the better. But with everybody on the edge of their seats, straining to hear her every word, her talk lasted just four minutes. No one there will ever forget a second of what she said.

Here, then, is the complete text of Sandra Bullock’s commencement speech on Monday:

* * *

“I was trying to remember my graduation and, oddly, I couldn’t remember anything. I remembered how good I looked and then I went back and looked at pictures and I really didn’t look so good. … I didn’t remember anything because I was so worried about the future, I wasn’t present, which made me think about a question someone asked me just recently. And that question was, ‘If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you say?’

“And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s kinda heavy,’ and then I realized what I wished someone had said to me was what I’ve been spending the last four years telling a little boy who I love more than anything, who happens to be my son, and who’s from New Orleans, and so I thought maybe I would share that with you guys.

“What I tell a four-year-old is what I wish someone would’ve told me before I stepped out in the world and the first thing is, stop worrying so much, OK? Stop being scared of the unknown, because anything I worried about didn’t happen. Other stuff happened, but not what I worried about. The unknown we can’t do anything about, and I don’t remember any of the moments in my life where I worried. So that’s a lot of time I couldn’t get back.

“The second thing was, raise the bar higher. OK? It is noisy out there and for some reason, people want to see you fail. But that’s not your problem. That is their problem. I only remember the moments where I tried beyond what I thought I could do and I do not remember the failures because I didn’t. Nothing is a failure. It’s just not supposed to work out that way because something better is supposed to come along.

“The third thing we work on at home in the mornings is that we turn on the music really, really loud before we leave the house and the rule is you have to dance a little bit before you step out in the world because it changes the way you walk. It changes the way you walk out in the world. So do that.

“Eat something green every day with every meal. It’s growing food for adults as well. Do not pick your nose in public. Think about this. How about we just don’t pick it in private either? How about we just go get a tissue? I know it takes a little extra effort but it gets the job done right away and there’s no public humiliation and that can go with a lot of other things as well, so make a little bit of an effort.

“When someone who cares about you hugs you, hug them back with two arms. Don’t do the one-arm hug, because when you hug with two arms, it allows you to lean on somebody and we always need someone to lean on.

“And if someone doesn’t want to play with you, it’s OK. It’s OK. You know, not everyone’s going to love us. Go find somebody who does want to play with you and who appreciates what you have to offer. And last but not least is, go find your joy. Whatever that is, go find your joy.

“Are you going to have a good day or are you going to have a great day, because it’s completely up to you. It’s what you’re going to remember in the end. You’re not going to remember how you worried. You’re not going to remember the what ifs or the whys or who wronged you.

“It’s the joy that stays with you, and I want to thank you guys for the amazing joy that Warren Easton brings me every day. You make me walk out into the world with pride and I want you to go find it and I want you to go save the world while you’re at it, and I thank you so much.

“Congratulations, class of 2014. You make me so proud.”

* * *

Is that the best ever, or what!

royexum@aol.com


 


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Insurance Burden Should Not Fall On The Teachers

I have attended several Hamilton County School Board meetings over the past few months, including the recent special called meeting" to vote on teacher insurance changes. First, let me say I am very impressed with Superintendent Rick Smith and his staff at the Central Office.  Mr. Smith is a very dedicated public servant, working hard to provide services to our community ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Worley-Powered Vols Clobber Utah State, 38-7, In Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, trying to snap out of the doldrums of four consecutive losing seasons, started its 2014 campaign in fine fashion Sunday night before a season opening sellout crowd of 102,445 that endured a heavy rain story 30 minutes prior to kickoff. And senior quarterback Justin Worley, who missed the final four games in 2013 after undergoing thumb surgery, was ... (click for more)

Lookouts Reach Southern League Northern Division Playoffs With Doubleheader Win Over Smokies

The Chattanooga Lookouts are now playoff bound after sweeping a double-header against the Tennessee Smokies  to clinch the Southern League North Division for the second half of the season. The first game of the double-header was backed by a masterful gem of a game thrown by the starter for the Lookouts, Steve Smith (W, 3-2). Smith dominated the Smokies' lineup from top ... (click for more)