More than 20 years ago when the Mexican poet and intellectual, Octavio Paz, received the Nobel Prize he started his speech with two words that all men have expressed since the beginning of humanity: thank you.
Today I borrow these words to thank Oaklawn Academy for inviting me to speak on this very special day in which we all celebrate the graduation of our beloved children. I feel deeply honored by this privilege.
I would also like to congratulate both the families and professors who have contributed to make this day happen. I am sure that without your constant support, encouragement, and personal assistance during this past academic year this celebration probably would not be taking place… And, last but not least, I want to applaud the students who with their hard effort, discipline and dedication, have successfully completed a very important step in their lives. Today I am sure you all are better individuals: you have acquired new knowledge and have strengthened your values and education. Maintain and increase them. These will help you not only to succeed in your professional lives but also to be better citizens in the near future.
It is good to be back. Almost 30 years ago I was sitting in one of the chairs you are occupying this morning, listening to an adult just as you are listening to me today. Time flies. During these past three decades the world has experienced enormous changes, though some things still remain the same. For example, I am sure that Esteban, my son --as well as your children-- intensely enjoyed the enlightening company of his professors; playing sports everey day; and the festive and educational outings and trips, just as I did when I was his age. Together, these experiences have helped our sons to build their character while having a great time.
How can I not fondly remember those endless afternoons during the fall, when we played soccer without worries, just enjoying the moment? How could I forget the great moments I shared with my classmates and professors during the constant, interesting and educational fieldtrips we made together?
And, without any doubt, the most valued treasures our children are taking home are the great life-long friendships that they have made. Believe me, I say it from experience. Some things never change.
But today some things are quite different. Huge scientific discoveries are emerging everywhere promising great things in areas such as medicine and technology. For instance, we have seen the fabulous development of the internet which allows us to communicate instantaneously with our families and friends, whereas years ago my classmates and I had to rely on the telephone to communicate with our parents.
I guess I am supposed to offer you a few words of wisdom. I have never considered myself good at writing speeches nor at giving advice. Although you are very young and have a long life to live in front of you, do not forget that time is limited, so don´t waste it. It will be crucial for you to find what you love doing. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, believe with all your heart in what you do. Trust in God –and in yourself-.
Will you find obstacles and barriers? Definitely! Sometimes you will even fail. But, you know what? It does not matter! You will need to keep going…….keep going…there is no other way. And believe me, everything will be OK.
My second piece of advice is to keep your friends close to you. Create a Facebook group, exchange emails, and keep in touch with each other. Share all the good things that are happening to you, and travel to visit each other as often as you can. For my third piece of advice, I would like to refer to a book I always recommend: The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Don’t think about the future. Please, do not get me wrong. It is great to plan for your future, and you should do it! But just do not live there. Remember, nothing ever happens in the future, things happen in the present: here and now; so live your lives here and now. Do one thing at a time. Give each experience all your attention. Try to resist being distracted, and whenever it happens, guide your mind back to what you are doing.
Lastly, I would recommend that you study and work as hard as you can. These are the keys to success, both personally and professionally. But I also encourage you to travel as much as possible, to read all you can, to watch films, make new friends, listen to music, and discover every day a new thing. Life is short.
Congratulations, graduates! I wish you all the best. I end my words remembering a fantastic film I watched years ago when I was about your age: Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life…Thank you for attention!
Mr Preciado, Oaklawn student class of 1986, proud parent of Oaklawn student class of 2013!