Eanes ISD

Best wishes and special reflections

Best wishes and special reflections

Dear Staff, Parents and Guardians,

WHS Graduation Balloon Drop
Last night's Westlake graduation was a beautiful celebration for students, parents and staff, as we ended one chapter and began another. Writing a speech for graduation is always interesting to me. While I do not want to be the guy that puts everyone to sleep, I like to share a message or point to convey to our graduates. This year, I chose to talk about our social-emotional learning initiative and how it resonates through so much in our lives.

As we end the 2016-17 school year, I thought I would share parts of my speech from graduation. I feel the message is good for not only graduating seniors to hear but for everyone, even if it only serves as a reminder.

I truly believe in the value of grit, of being resilient and of not quitting. That said, there will be times when, fairly or unfairly, we are knocked off the treadmill. In those instances, I have found that not giving up is a matter of reassessing, making course adjustments and relying on grit to stay in the game.

In most sports, the action does pause for a break, either at the end of a quarter, halftime or after an inning. Time outs are taken and occur for a reason. One game ends and another begins.

As we travel through the setbacks and failures in a game, or in life, I have learned that one really does not know whether the failure is, in fact, an ending or an opportunity. With experience, we learn that when one has that significant setback, remaining in the game is critical.

If one looks to the past, there is plenty of evidence of this lesson in many arenas:
  • In sports, Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, in his first year at the helm, failed to win a single game.

  • In publishing, after writing her manuscript, "Harry Potter", author J.K. Rowling found her treasure was rejected 12 times before being seriously considered.

  • In the art world, Vincent Van Gogh, during his lifetime only managed to sell one of his more than 900 paintings.
There are countless examples in the entertainment industry:
  • Early in his life, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."

  • Oprah Winfrey was fired as a TV news reporter because she was considered "unfit for TV."

  • Steven Spielberg, as a high school senior, was rejected by USC's School of Cinema, not once, but twice.

  • And one of my favorite performers of the yesteryear actor, singer, dancer, Fred Astaire, after his first audition, the MGM executive noted "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little."
Now the "slightly bald" remark really stings.

Finally, in business, many of us know the story of Steve Jobs, who after starting Apple in a garage, on April Fool's day in 1976, was forced to resign nine years later. In 1997, 12 years later, he was brought back to Apple as CEO. In 2005 Jobs said, "I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me."

I could go on and on with examples of inspiring individuals, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa, all who looked failure in the eye, readjusted, stayed in the game, worked tirelessly - and were able to improve the lives of millions. But I trust you understand my point.

Stay the course, work hard and have GRIT.

And when things look bad or go wrong, when you, your work, or your ideas are rejected, find a light switch and turn the light on. That said, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before getting it right.

Your parents, your friends, and all those in Eanes ISD have prepared you for the next step in your journey. You will have success and you will have failure, but remember, in those moments of each, you may not really know which is which. It will be critical for you to rely on grit and just stay in the game.

To all, have a great summer and we will see you in August!

Dr. Tom Leonard | tleonard@eanesisd.net
Eanes Independent School District, 601 Camp Craft Road, Austin, TX 78746