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I currently serve as the mayor of the City of Milan. I feel transparency and open government are important to a thriving democracy. I invite you to post questions or comments ---if you have any ideas about things you'd like me to discuss, relating to the City of Milan, this blog is a great place to exchange ideas. You must include your name, (first and last) and town to have your comments posted here.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If I could have spoke at commencement this is what I’d say…

This past weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing my youngest daughter's graduation ceremony at Milan High School.

Sitting in the audience listening to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" song, my eyes brimmed over with pride for my daughter and my community. The array of speakers made me realize that I too would love the chance to address the graduates.

The commencement ceremony is a milestone. It is a once in a lifetime rite of passage; and a moment to give our young people our very best, which hopefully they will take with them as they move on to adulthood.

This would not be a time for airing my petty complaints or to bore them with a list of my own personal achievements. If given the opportunity, I would approach this task of communicating something meaningful to our graduates, with humility.

I would have so much I would want to say. There is so much to impart to them, so much advice, so many lessons still unlearned.

While I am 46 years old, I still find that I don't know what I don't know. This process never stops, and I would tell them that.

I would attempt to give them words of encouragement tempered with truth.

I'd start here. My first advice to the graduates would be to tell them to be brave. Even if you are afraid.

Be brave. Stand up to those who bully you. Stand up to those who bully others. Look your enemies in the eye and hold your ground. Even if you are afraid, do it anyway. Be calm, even if your insides are quaking—be brave. It gets easier with practice.

When you witness injustice of any kind, be brave, and do something. When you witness cruelty, be brave. When faced with overwhelming problems and opposition---and those days are ahead of you—be brave, and be a part of the solution.

The world inside your classroom is not how the real world operates.

Out in the real world you should question authority. Question your leaders. High school has its purpose, but high school cannot function as a democracy. You've been programmed for 13 years not to question the judgment of those in authority, but remember, now that you are going to be adults, part of your responsibility is to hold others accountable. Be accountable. Be brave.

Defend your convictions. If you still don't know what you believe, then take the rest of your life to figure that out. Never stop. Read books and newspapers, watch the news, research issues, know what matters to people, and find out why. Learn and know what really matters to you. Figure out for yourself what is right and wrong. Figure out where your boundaries are, and what you will and won't tolerate.

Never base your opinions on those who yell the loudest. Those who yell to make their point, do so, because they do not have the tools of facts and logic to make their point. Know who you are by figuring out what you believe.

Be informed. Defend what you believe. Someday you'll find yourself surrounded by opinions that differ from your own. Be brave and be the lone dissenter if that's what you are. Sometimes you will have to go against the tide. Be calm, be rational. State your opinion. Look them in the eye. Be brave.

This next word of advice takes courage. Have integrity. Tell the truth. Tell the truth especially about yourself. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on. You will find that the world does not end when you own up to your mistakes.

Be honest about who you are. Do not try to convince people you never have problems, or that you have more money than you do, or that you are smarter than they are. Show people that you are strong, but you are vulnerable too. Be real. Be authentic. Be sincere.

Have integrity. Keep your commitments. If you say you will do it, and then do it. Keep your promises. Be brave, be truthful. If you make a mistake, and you will, we all do, be brave and apologize. If someone asks your forgiveness, be brave and forgive them. Keep your commitments.

Be respectful. Be on time. If you are late all the time you must break that habit. There is a saying that those who are perpetually late, really believe their time is more valuable than everyone else's. Show up early, have respect. And what goes along with this, is have a good work ethic. No matter what you are committed to, show up and give your all. Jump in with both feet and put your shoulders into the task. Get it done. Do this every day. Hard work really is satisfying.

Friendships. Throughout your life you will meet all sorts of people. You will find that there are mainly two kinds: those who wish you well, and those who do not. Learn to know the difference and stay positive. At times you will be surprised by those who are in your corner. Those who wish you well are positive and supportive of you and your goals, hopes and dreams. Weed out the negative.

Over the years I have heard many commencement speeches where the speaker encourages the students that they can do anything. Anything! While this is an encouraging message, I don't think it's entirely truthful. For example—I could never be an astronaut. I'm terrible at math and science, plus I'm afraid of heights. Be brave and take risks, but be realistic too. We all have our limits. If you want to be an astronaut but you're not strong on math and science, then find what it is you are good at, and pursue that. Please know, that we tend to really like the things we are good at. Base your hopes and dreams on what is real. You are young, now you can test your limits and stretch them beyond what you think is possible, but know there are always limits. Find your own barriers and see what you can do to expand them. But know that we all have baggage, barriers, fears and things we just aren't good at. Find out now what those things are, and figure out how to keep moving forward despite those limits.

Pursue what you are good at, what excites you, but know that you also have the freedom to fail. Accept failure when it comes and move on. Do not bask in the dark shadow of it and do not let it define you. Failure is a lesson. That's all it is.

Please know, that things can go horribly, unexpectedly wrong. It's at those times, when courage, honesty, a good work ethic and knowing who you are will see you through those bad times.

If I were able to speak to the graduates, I would tell them, that their lives will have their share of victories and failures. While you celebrate your victories be prepared for tough times too.

Academic achievement is important but will only get you so far. Remember what is truly important and keep your achievements in perspective.

Strive for goodness, honesty, courage, kindness and long lasting relationships. Strive for the chance to love your work and to love your family. If and when you have children, try to pass a solid work ethic and goodness, honesty, courage and kindness to them.

Be generous. Give your attention and time to the people and problems in your life that really matter.

Lastly, be grateful. You live in the greatest country in the world. You are free. You can travel great distances without asking anyone's permission. You can own property, you can start your own business, you can invent things. Be grateful for the big things, and say thank you for the small kindnesses too.

I would close my speech by telling them, that I am just so proud of them all and that I am truly honored and grateful for the opportunity to give them a little of my best on this momentous occasion.

Good luck, and good work graduates. Congratulations!

Kym Muckler


City of Milan






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