The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

My End of the Year Speech

Last night was our 8th grade awards ceremony and celebration. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make the following speech:

John Bernia – Closing remarks for the 8th grade celebration – June 9, 2011

Three lessons, two opinions, and one idea to think about……

When I was a junior in high school, I took Chemistry. To say that I did poorly would understate how bad it really was. One day, after passing back some assignments, my teacher informed me that I was the worst science student he had ever seen. It made me angry, so angry, that I resolved to learn SOMETHING scientific. Lesson #1 – NEVER allow anyone, regardless of how much you respect them, tell you that you don’t have the capacity for something.

I spoke to our school librarian, and told her that I wanted to take this on (keep in mind, this was before you could just “google” something) and she handed me a copy of a newspaper. She indicated I should look at the Science section, pick something out, and she’d help me. I selected the human genome project, research that started in the late 80s, and a project that identified, genetically, what makes people, people. I needed a librarian, a teacher, as well as one of my peers to help me get started, and while I will never be an authority on the subject, I know a lot about it. Lesson #2 – Aim high, ask for help, and persist. It will pay off.

While I won’t get into the specifics, a basic finding of the Human Genome Project is Lesson #3 – that human beings are more than 99% the same. All of our differences occur in less than 1% of our genetic makeup.

In my opinion, being unique is good. I’m glad we have that less than 1% that allows us to offer different perspectives, wear cufflinks, or like hot dogs more than any other food. Differences are good, especially when you can learn from and appreciate them.

Having said that, is it also my opinion that we spend far too much time focusing on our differences, and not enough effort thinking about how we’re the same.

Perhaps, if we took more time to focus on the 99% of us that is the same, we’d be kinder to one another. Perhaps we’d be more tolerant, and maybe even we’d consider not getting caught up in rumors that hurt people’s feelings. I believe that if we thought about how we are the same, rather than focusing on how we are different we would be more helpful to one another, when we saw someone we consider “different” from us being hurt, we’d be supportive. I think we would also put the interests of others ahead of our own ambitions. I’d like for you to think about this idea, be unique, but remember, we’re all more than 99% the same.

Thank you.

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3 thoughts on “My End of the Year Speech

  1. Dwight on said:

    John,

    You did an outstanding job using story to teach some powerful lessons that focus on human interaction. Congratulations on a strong end of the year and leaving your students with some things to think about.

    Be Great,

    Dwight

  2. Jona Jnr on said:

    Thank you so much for these powerful words of advice. I am a Head of an Institution and l find it your words most encouraging. Thank you so much for that

    God Bless

  3. Great lesson for kids and adults. Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to following your blog.
    Jim Warnock Principalnotes.com

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